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SMSU VOLLEYBALL: ‘He’s one of a kind’

Paul Soupir’s vibrant personality and tireless work ethic made him a beloved coach in multiple sports at the high school and college levels

Photo courtesy of SMSU Athletic Communications Paul Soupir spent 16 seasons as an assistant coach for the SMSU volleyball program, where he helped the Mustangs reach 15 straight NCAA tournaments. Soupir passed away Saturday after a year-long battle with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

MARSHALL — Whether it was on the hardwood coaching, or off of it spending time with his family, the late, great Paul Soupir would do it with a magnetic personality that never failed to light up a room and a work ethic that was unparalleled. Those attributes always shined and remained prevalent during his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Soupir had spent the past 16 seasons on the sidelines as an assistant coach for the Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball program before his long and courageous battle came to an end last Saturday at the age of 62.

A private family service will be held today at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Milroy, with a burial in the church cemetery. Guests are invited to view the service via the Facebook Live video feed. Stephens Funeral Service — Tracy Area Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. Paul is survived by his wife Marlene and their four children, Nick, Josh, Kelli and Anna.

“The Mustang family lost a very special person, coach, and community member this weekend,” SMSU Director of Athletics Chris Hmielewski said in a press release from the school. “Our thoughts of support go out to Paul’s wife Marlene, their four children, and the entire Soupir family. The positive impact that Paul has made in our department and within the Mustang volleyball program cannot be measured. He positively impacted the lives of all the players he has coached and those of us who have had the honor of working with him. Paul gave a lot of his time, talent, and passion to the SMSU volleyball program and will forever be missed by all of us.”

Soupir joined the Mustangs volleyball program in 2004 and along with head coach Terry Culhane, helped lead SMSU to 15 straight NCAA tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 2014. Prior to his time at SMSU, Soupir also helped coach both the volleyball and girls basketball programs at Milroy and Tracy-Milroy High School for more than 25 years.

By his side was Culhane, and together, the two guided Milroy and Tracy-Milroy to 12 state appearances in volleyball, including three third-place finishes, one runner-up finish and five state championships during an 11-year stretch from 1986-1996. In girls basketball, they led Milroy and Tracy-Milroy to a runner-up finish in 1985 and state championships in 1992 and 1996.

Culhane said he’s grateful for all of the many years they got to spend coaching with each other at both the high school and collegiate level and that Paul was an incredible human being.

“Paul was a wonderful person. We were fortunate to coach many years at the high school level and I was able to talk him into being a part of our staff when I came to SMSU,” Culhane said. “He loved working with the kids and it’s just a tough loss for our players and anyone who knew him. He had that vibrant personality and was a wonderful coach and my best friend.”

Soupir had a tremendous impact on the players he coached and the coaching staff he worked with.

“It didn’t matter if it was high school or college, he had a great rapport with the players,” Culhane said. “Every fall we would lose him for a few weeks for harvest; it was always refreshing to have him come back because one, it made us better and two, the players were happy to see him again. I could put him with any position on the court and he could go and not miss a beat. Just coaching in general we were on the same page, so I never had to worry about that.”

“When you put together the coaching staff, especially Terry and the relationship they had with each other, the coaches start to feed off each other,” Hmielewski added. “Each one has their role and Paul helped fulfill balance. As you look at it, that balance made them complete.”

After Soupir was diagnosed last September, the community immediately rallied behind him, including shirts worn by SMSU volleyball last season that said “Play For Paul” and the Marshall volleyball team at the 2019 state tournament that had one word on the back, “PABLO”, one of Soupir’s nicknames.

“We talk a lot in our gym about the importance of girls athletics and how our players are not only representing themselves but young girls everywhere. Paul has done as much for female athletics as anybody and if that’s one thing that we can do, that’s not much considering everything that he’s provided,” Marshall volleyball coach Dan Westby said on recognizing Soupir with their shirts at the tournament last November. “The fact that we can recognize him, we’re privileged to be able to do that. He’s done so much for female athletics in the state and he’s a great guy and any volleyball program that has the privilege of having them work with their team understands that.”

Then-Marshall senior outside hitter Bria Morris said that everyone that knows him, loves him.

“Everybody loves Paul,” Morris said. “Nobody doesn’t like Paul, he’s one of a kind.”

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