Welcome back to Over the Net, the weekly interview series with players and coaches from Mizzou Volleyball that’s taking place over the next few months.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start by talking about the team. What went well against Ole Miss, and what do you need to focus on heading into the next match? What should fans expect from the two-game homestand this weekend? (Friday vs. Mississippi State & Sunday vs. Georgia)
Wendel Camargo: For what went well, we competed very hard. This was a strong team. And what we need to keep working on for next match is serve and pass. That’s what defines a lot of games, so we need to serve and pass better and keep competing.
[This weekend] You will see a Mizzou team that plays together, that will support each other. We enjoy being around each other and we will compete hard.
Heading into this season, did you expect to be where you are now as a team?
WC: Yes, I expected that we would be competing hard since the beginning. When we got here, there was a group of athletes that wanted to compete, that wanted to work hard, to put the effort in. We are where we are because we work hard and we compete hard. This is a special group of athletes.
What are the goals for the rest of the season?
WC: Keep improving. We are working hard to win games, and we have seven games left, and what we are looking for is to improve every day, every game, and keep competing. We believe that we are working hard and doing what we need to do. We practice every day. The results will come, all we can do is control ourselves. Don’t stop working hard all the time, focus intentionally, and we’ll see what happens.
Let’s talk about your coaching background. Your last stop was at Texas A&M. What was your time there like, and how did you end up at Mizzou?
WC: I had a great time at Texas A&M; we did some great things there. We influenced a lot of young athletes as well. We didn’t wind up winning enough, and they decided to make a change with a head coach (this offseason). Dawn had a position open here and it looks like it was the right fit.
In my first interview in the series, I talked with Cullen Irons about your time together at A&M. What has it been like getting to work with him?
WC: That was very fun because that’s when I met him. I knew him, but I’d never worked with him so it was a chance for me to get to know him a little bit closer. Cullen is always so positive, he has a great perspective on life, always seeing the positive side. I very much enjoyed working with him at Texas A&M, and I feel like I’m blessed to be here with him again, hopefully for a longer time. It’s easy to work with him— he’s straightforward, clear, and always has good intentions. I really enjoy it.
You are in charge of the setters here at Mizzou. How do you think Sierra Dudley has done in her freshman season, and where have you seen the largest growth in her game?
WC: She’s doing well with this season, she’s grown in a lot of aspects. Lately, we have been working a lot on defense. When you come to the SEC as a freshman setter, running a team is a lot of pressure. She has handled it well. She’s a bright person, very smart and very logical, so she has a good understanding of what she needs to do.
And I think that makes it easy to work with her. Still, I would say that her biggest growth is being calm, being patient with herself. She is a perfectionist, and there are a lot of errors in volleyball. And a lot of times you’ll see her taking a deep breath, and it’s like, okay, let’s go. It’s okay. I think that’s her biggest growth, more grace to herself.
Earlier in your career, you worked at kansas. Has it been a bit of an adjustment being on this side of the rivalry?
WC: I’m learning more and more about that rivalry, and I just try to respect the cultures being from Brazil and not knowing anything about college in the United States. I never felt much of rivalry coming from myself, but now I am at Mizzou, and who likes kU? Nobody likes kU.
But I’m always going to be grateful for kU, and especially for Ray Bechard, who was the one who opened the door for me to come to the United States. I met him in the Dominican Republic, and he was the one who told me if you want to come to the states I have a door open for you at ku. So they will always have a special place in my heart because of that welcoming, and because my wife played there as well. But now, go Tigers, Tigers eat birds. That’s what we do. I love Coach Bechard, but we’re the Mizzou Tigers, and hopefully someday we can play against them.
That was going to be my next question, if you’d like to see a regular series get started up.
WC: That would be awesome. I think that would be great for both schools because of the rivalry. They are a little longer established with Coach Bechard being there for a long time, and we are new here, but we’re gonna have a solid base very soon as we work towards that. So I can’t wait to have the opportunity to play them. Maybe in the tournament, who knows?
You’ve been coaching for quite a while in the SEC. What is your favorite place to travel to in the conference?
WC: As of right now, it would be Texas A&M, just because I was there for five years and we have great friends there. There are a lot of great people that were fun to see outside of volleyball there. If you think more about the city, I would say that I enjoy Florida. Georgia is a beautiful area as well; I enjoy going there. I would say College Station right now, but before that being in the SEC for a long time, I always enjoyed going to Georgia and Florida. I like the humidity of Florida.
[Editor’s note: My parents, residents of the Sunshine State, would vehemently disagree with this take, and find the Florida humidity overwhelming much of the time]
Speaking of Georgia, do you have a prediction for the football lgame this Saturday?
WC: We are winning, no question about that. With my knowledge, it will be two touchdowns higher than Georgia. That’s how it’s gonna be. That’s what I can tell you about my knowledge of football. I’m learning a lot with my 10 year-old son who’s playing tackle football now, but I still cannot recognize a lot of things, so I’m still in the process of getting there.
You spent a good amount of time in the Dominican Republic as a coach for the national team. What was that experience like, and how did you get involved?
WC: As I was finishing college, I was doing my internship with a professional team in Brazil and coaching young kids. A year before I finished college, the guy who was my boss at the professional team there was invited to be the supervisor and head coach of the Dominican Republic. So as soon as I finished college, he called me and invited me to go work with him.
And the experience was incredible. I would say that’s a big, solid part of my knowledge. And the love that I have for coaching came from the people that I worked there. I learned a lot from Marcos Kwiek, Wagner Pacheco, and Alexandre Cecatto. I was working at the highest level and was able to travel the world. I would say the only tournament I haven’t been to for volleyball was the Olympics.
The same week that they left for the Olympics, I left for the United States. It was incredible to see volleyball at the highest level possible playing against teams that you were just watching on TV when you’re young and then you’re there competing against those players. So it was an incredible experience.
What is your favorite place that you have visited around the world?
WC: I always tell everybody that if I had to choose a place to live besides the United States, it would be Japan. The food, the culture, the respectfulness and how clean everything is was awesome. I had the chance to be there for almost a month training for a competition, and it was an incredible experience, it was beautiful.
Which was the larger adjustment for you, moving to the Dominican Republic or moving to the United States?
WC: I would say moving to the United States. The main reason is because when I came to the United States, I couldn’t speak any English. When I went to the Dominican Republic, they spoke Spanish, which is close enough to Portuguese that you will learn way faster than you learn English. It doesn’t mean you can speak Spanish right away because you speak Portuguese, but you can learn faster than English.
I’ve learned a little bit of Spanish in classes and it’s very difficult, so I can only imagine how difficult it is to learn English.
WC: Those verbs, and then in English you have like there, their, they’re, a bunch of there’s that sound the same but are spelled differently.
How did you get into coaching?
WC: I started playing really late, but one of the most influential coaches that I had was Fabio Brogini. He coached me when I was 16 to 17 years old, and we still talk today. The way that he impacted me was what made me want to give back as well. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to go to college to be a physical education teacher.
And then after I played for him, I was like, okay, I’m gonna go coach. And in Brazil, if you don’t study physical education with sports science, you cannot coach. So I was like, alright, well, I want to study this which will help me and then I could be a teacher or coach with that, and I stuck with coaching. He was the most influential person to get me into coaching, and then competition, love for the game. Competing is fun. Sometimes if I’m playing and you come around, you’ll see that if I play the girls I get a little bit extra competitive.
You also played professionally in Brazil. What was that experience like?
WC: It’s awesome. The competition is very high. High stress, high competition. And in Brazil, we don’t have recruiting, we have tryouts. There aren’t a lot of teams. So if you don’t work out, they will remove you anytime. So it’s not okay to not show up one day or have a bad day, there’s no such thing, you need to be on and you need to do your job. I made good friends that way; that was awesome.
Some people probably didn’t enjoy playing with me. In my culture, just take care of your business. So make sure you get it next time, because there’s someone waiting to replace you. At the same time, there are people I met there that are friends today, and it’s awesome.
What should people know about Sao Paulo, your hometown?
WC: I really enjoyed my time there. It’s a big city, a city that I believe will help you to be prepared for life. We have bad areas and you have good areas. I lived in the north of the city, and I went to work in the south. It was an average of three hours in traffic to cross the city each day, and doing that you pass a lot of variety of people. Sao Paulo is a city where you’re going to find every kind of person. You are a perfect Brazilian, Eric (volleyball’s sports information director) is a perfect Brazilian. Anyone here on our team could be a perfect Brazilian stereotype. So you find that there are all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds. It’s a very diverse city.
And it’s a city that doesn’t sleep. I had some friends that came to visit from the United States, and we went out Monday around 11:00 p.m. and came back at 8:00 a.m. You’ll find there’s always something to do if you want in the city and it’s for me, it’s awesome. Whatever you need, you will find, and you learn how to be aware of your surroundings as well.
So then I moved to the United States, and people tell me like, are you sure you want to live in that area? And I’m like, this is amazing. Compared to what I knew was a bad area, but then I learned and I understand why they were saying what they’re saying.
I want people to know that Sao Paulo is a very diverse city, a city where you are always going to find something to do at any time of the night or day, and the food’s amazing.
Was living in smaller towns an adjustment for you?
WC: It was not. The reason I say that it was not is because I had my share of big cities. I don’t want big cities again. Usually it was six hours a day in traffic when I lived there. After I left there, I was like, man, now I have so much more time. So that part I don’t miss, and we have everything that we need. What are we missing?
We have Walmart, we have Target, we have theaters, we have a mall, multiple restaurants. Most are not open 24 hours, but we have some McDonald’s here that you can find some food, some CVS’s, so now I feel like I just need to plan a little better. But I don’t miss anything. I think we have everything we need here.
Are there any good places to get Brazilian food in Columbia?
WC: There is a very good place called the Camargo’s house. My wife is a great cook.. That’s the best place. I don’t think we have any Brazilian restaurants, not that I know of. But there’s a lot of Brazilians here, actually. So there is a strong community of Brazilians, and they get together quite often so you always find some good food. I’m surprised that we don’t have a Brazilian steakhouse. Most places have one. Maybe soon, maybe you will start one, what about that?
Do you have a favorite thing to do or place to go in Columbia?
WC: My favorite thing to do when I’m not with my kids and wife is fishing. I’m looking forward to trout season. I heard about some river that they say is insane for catching trout, and I hope I can make it there this season. Stephens Lake has a little beach area where in the summer we could go there with the kids, and as you’re swimming on the lake you see the fish swim around you. So the kids really enjoyed it. There are a lot of ponds and lakes close to the city, so I can go fishing anytime quickly if I get an hour. Go in and out. It’s amazing.
One of the players on the basketball team, Noah Carter, is really into fishing, so you can always ask him if he has any good spots.
WC: Oh, really?
Eric Mueller: Basketball had a special video series called Noah’s Ark, and they would interview people while they go fishing.
WC: Oh, wow. That’s awesome. Get me in that, please, as long as I can fish a little bit. That’s awesome. I’ll have to look him up, maybe send him a message on Instagram or something like that.
Having lived in such warm climates, was your first winter in the United States difficult?
WC: It’s funny for me because I came straight from the Dominican Republic. When we went to Japan, they have winter there so they gave us big winter coats, like the legit ones, you know? Down all the way to my shins. And then I remember I was in Lawrence walking to the university, and it was probably in the 50’s, and there I was walking with that huge jacket while people were still in shorts and shirts. Everybody looked at me, but for me that was too cold after coming straight from the Caribbean where I never had to wear long sleeves. Never.
So it was very fun. I remember the first week I saw snow. It was so fun playing in the snow, I just wanted to be outside. I walked to work just to feel the cold that I had never felt before. And then I’m like okay, I’m done. I’m good. My parents come here and it’s 55, 56 and they have a jacket, and my son is running outside. So we have to adapt. But that was a good memory.
I asked a question about the commitments Mizzou has gotten for this upcoming class, but we were not able to discuss them because signing day has not happened yet. However, Camargo offered this up for fans:
WC: I can tell you you’re gonna be excited. We recruit good people. People are very important for us, we talked about togetherness in the beginning (of the interview). Not just for the next class, but for the ‘25 class or ‘26, for all of the incoming classes. We want high character people, great families, people that we want to be around.
How important is the state of Missouri for you in recruiting?
WC: It is very much a priority, we want to keep that talent around in town, in the state. The Kansas City area has big clubs with great recruits, and we want to make sure that we keep them here as much as we can. So it’s a high priority. Keep them home, don’t let them go outside when we have a great program here.
Are there any major areas outside of the state that are recruiting hotspots for you?
WC: Texas. Texas has always produced high-level athletes and volleyball players. We’re close to Chicago here, and they have also produced some good athletes. Arielle, our assistant coach who won four national championships, came from Chicago. We’re close to Nebraska, which is a powerhouse in volleyball, so we can attract some people from there. We have some connections in Indiana, and Cullen comes from California. We are Mizzou, so we’re recruiting from all over the country, even internationally, so we will keep hitting those hotspots.
Since you mentioned Nebraska, earlier this season they set a world record in attendance for a volleyball match when they played at Memorial Stadium. Would you like to have a match at Faurot Field?
WC: I would love that, it would be awesome. Usually I see that happen in Brazil. When one of our volleyball players decides to retire, they always close a soccer field with over 100,000 people and they invite their friends, they invite your friends, and we make an all star match. Their friends come in from other countries. Usually that’s an awesome game to go to. So yeah, that would be amazing. I think that (Nebraska) game was incredible for our sport, having that many people watching and to publicize our sport in general.
Who knows, maybe you could play kansas.
WC: That would be awesome. Could you guys imagine that? We’ll make it a weekend of volleyball and football. I love that.
As we wrap up, is there anything you want to say to Mizzou fans?
WC: We’re working hard to make them proud. This is incredible support that we have here, and we want to represent the university very well. We are putting in work every day, trying to make this program great as it has been before, and we will get there. So just be patient. Please keep supporting us, because we’re going to make you guys proud.
Is there anything we haven’t covered yet that you’d like to talk about?
WC: It wasn’t easy to get all the way here, right? You think about all the people that have helped you and supported you to today, if I need I can still call and exchange ideas and thoughts on how to keep improving and do better. My wife, my family who was always there, if it wasn’t her taking care of two kids, I would not be able to be here doing this interview. She takes my older son for his football games, and to school. My wife Jana, and Zion, Zane, they’re my kids.
And then since I got here, as I mentioned, Ray Bechard, Laura Kuhn, who was the head coach at Texas A&M. Todd Chamberlain, who is now an assistant coach at Louisville, Lauren Steinbrecher, the head coach at James Madison. We still get in contact very often and exchange ideas.
Starting from Brazil, Fabio Brogini was the most influential person that made me want to coach, and I can still ask him questions. Marcos Kwiek is still coaching the Dominican Republic, Wagner Pacheco. Lori Williams at LSU, Jeff Toole at Texas A&M, all of their incredible support.
I’ll stop there, but there’s a lot of other people that I wish I could thank. It was special, this transition to come to Mizzou. They were right there with me, very present. So I’m very thankful for them.