Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Josi Lima

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Kansas Athletics is synonymous with creating a family atmosphere for the student-athletes who represent the University in their respective sports. That strong family atmosphere was the deciding factor in bringing one of the most dynamic players in Kansas volleyball history all the way from South America to the heart of the Midwest.

Josiane (Josi) Lima, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, grew up playing a variety of sports including basketball, soccer and handball. At the age of 13, Lima began to play volleyball and quickly shifted her focus primarily to her new favorite sport. Not only was she having more fun playing volleyball, Lima actually had more success with it than any other sport she had previously played. Her talent, achievements and potential were quickly recognized by coaches nationally and internationally. 

Lima remembers there were around five to seven schools recruiting her to the United States. Those other schools included: Fresno State, Georgia, Kentucky, Purdue, amongst others. Kansas head coach Ray Bechard figured the spotlight on Lima would steadily grow as she continued to develop.

“After evaluating Josi, we thought she could be a good middle blocker who could play all six rotations. She had that ability to play middle, but also play back row, attack from the back row, serve and pass, all at a high level. She was a bit undersized for her position, but her volleyball IQ was off the charts and that is what allowed her to stand out as a recruit.”

Excited with the amount of attention she was receiving, Lima relished the idea of pursuing her game at the collegiate level. Although Lima was happy with her multitude of scholarship offers, her mother was skeptical about the various schools’ intentions with her daughter.

“At first, my mother thought these schools were into human-trafficking or something like that,” Lima said.

When Lima and her family allowed coaches to conduct in-home visits at her home in Sao Paulo, she developed a better feel for where she belonged. After a few months of enjoying the recruitment process, Lima decided to lend her hand to the Kansas Jayhawks because of the relationship she had developed with KU’s coaching staff, especially Jill Jones-Stucky.

“I had the best relationship with Coach Jones out of all the schools,” Lima said. I also enjoyed looking at photos of the campus, and since I was leaving with another Brazilian, I knew Kansas was the place for me.”

The other Brazilian Lima mentioned was former fellow outside hitter, Janaina (Jana) Correa. Lima arrived in Lawrence in 2002, and Correa followed suit in 2003. Lima’s first year in Lawrence was almost her last as she pondered returning home to Brazil after the first semester concluded.

“It was tough going to another country and not speaking the language,” Lima said. “I thought about quitting and moving back home many times, but my coaches and teammates helped me get through it.”

Lima survived her freshman year of college while thriving on the volleyball court, as she was tabbed a First Team All-Big 12 selection, as well as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. She led the Jayhawks in kills (327) and blocks (103) and became the freshman record-holder for kills in a season. Lima had tasted success at the collegiate level and recognized how much fun she had playing at KU.

“Coming to the United States, everything was different,” Correa said. “She told me about how different the food was, the style of volleyball was different and she missed her friends and family. I believe that her knowing another Brazilian was coming enticed her to stay.”

Thus, Lima stayed in Lawrence.

After deciding to continue her career at KU, Lima’s sophomore season reunited her with Correa, who was ready to begin her freshman season. The two Jayhawks leaned on each other heavily while adjusting to life in the United States.

“I have known Jana for 15 years and she is my best friend,” Lima said. “Having your best friend with you in another country would make life easier for anyone. The only time we were not together was when we had different classes, which did not happen very often.”

As the 2003 season kicked off, both Correa and Lima were starters and major contributors for the Jayhawks. However, Correa suffered a season-ending knee injury 18 games into the season and Lima was relied upon to step up and lead Kansas’ offensive attack. She would end up leading the Jayhawks in kills and was named First Team All-Big 12 for the second consecutive year, while also becoming the first-ever Jayhawk to earn American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Region honors. Her contributions in 2003 led Kansas to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

“She played a huge role for us making the NCAA Tournament in 2003,” Bechard said. “We felt like we had a good enough year in 2002 and didn’t make the tournament. As a freshman, she helped us turn the program in the right direction. The program really gained momentum in 2003 when Josi was a sophomore and she was a big part of the reason why.”

Before Lima began her junior season, she had been named a preseason All-Big 12 selection by the league’s coaches. She did not disappoint, as she would lead the Jayhawks in kills (397) for the third consecutive year, while also finishing second on the team in total blocks (107). Lima became the seventh player in Kansas history to record 1,000 career kills as Jayhawk. She finished her junior season with 1,118 career kills, and knew she had one more season to leave her mark in Kansas volleyball history.

The Jayhawks had great expectations for the 2005 season as they would be led by seniors Lima, Paula Caten and Andi Rozum, and the resurgence of a healthy Correa. The Jayhawks finished the non-conference schedule with an 8-1 record and were set to begin Big 12 play. After claiming conference victories over Texas A&M and Oklahoma, KU was devastated by injuries. Rozum and Correa both endured season-ending injuries that left the team with only nine active players on the roster. Lima would once more be asked to step up and lead the team through the remainder of the schedule and on to postseason play. The Jayhawks finished the regular season on a rollercoaster ride of wins and losses. Despite finishing with a 15-14 overall record (7-13 in the Big 12), Kansas earned its third-consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament. KU would be ousted in the first round of the tournament by UCLA in Los Angeles.

Lima’s senior season was bittersweet, without a doubt, as she and the rest of the Jayhawks wanted to go further in the NCAA Tournament than the program had ever been. Fortunately, there were still plenty of amazing memories captured along the way.

“I remember when we beat Kansas State my senior year,” Lima said. “It was the first time we had beaten K-State in my career. After the match I looked over to our bench and Coach Jill (Jones-Stucky) was crying with such joy. I will never forget that moment.”

Lima finished her career in Lawrence in the top-10 of many statistical categories, but went on to make Big 12 volleyball history, as well. She is the only player in Big 12 Conference volleyball history to be named a First Team All-Big 12 selection all four years of her career. Lima’s impressive play on the court should not be overshadowed by her character off of it. Regardless of all the awards and praise she received, Lima always remained humble, grateful toward her team.

“When I found out, I thought it was great news and I was very grateful that my teammates put me in a situation to receive such an honor,” Lima said. “I am grateful for the chance to come to KU and really be a part of something great. I love KU and I will always be a proud Jayhawk.”

After the conclusion of Lima’s career at Kansas, she continued playing professionally for two more years in Switzerland, playing for team Zeiller-Koniz. Upon returning to her home in Brazil, Lima played one season of beach volleyball before her partner suffered an injury and the tandem was forced to split up. She decided it was best to retire from the sport and pursue a new professional career.

Lima’s volleyball career allowed her to travel all over the world, and now she does much of the same with work and family. Despite her extensive travelling resume, Lima has never forgotten the little town that holds a special place in her heart.

“I really miss Lawrence and KU,” Lima said. “When you live in a small town and then move back to a big city, you can definitely tell there is a difference. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to play at KU.”

Lima is planning to visit Lawrence with her boyfriend, Flavio, in November for the 2003 volleyball team 10-year reunion. It will be her first visit back to Lawrence and the United States since her KU career ended in 2005.

Lima, who graduated from KU with a degree in communications, currently works as an event coordinator for British Petroleum (BP) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is in charge of coordinating all of the internal events in Sao Paulo, including various trainings, workshops and company parties.

Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.