Lakewood Volleyball

Feature: Lakewood Volleyball Keeps Steve Lewis Tradition Going

A sports fan walking into the Tim Sweeney Gymnasium at Lakewood on Saturday evening might have mistaken that day’s festivities for just another lopsided volleyball match. The Lakewood girls’ team is having lots of those this year: they’re ranked No. 3 in California, and have a balanced team with five or six different players capable of leading the team in kills on any given night.

On Saturday, the Lancers took down Mayfair in a quick and routine sweep, 25-7, 25-9, 25-15. The team improved to 18-3 on the season, and in this match it was Samarah DaCoud leading the way with six kills. In a showcase of how strong Lakewood’s team is this season, reserve players Yvonne Barnes and Lala Hall stepped in and made a big impact, with five kills each. 

The match wasn’t what Saturday was all about, though. It was the 17th annual Steve Lewis Volleyfest, an event that Lakewood coach Mike Wadley began in 2005 in honor of his friend and mentor, the Lakewood volleyball coach who passed away of cancer in 2004.

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This year’s event was more understated than many of the previous incarnations of the Volleyfest. With COVID-19 regulations complicating multi-team events, and the other coaches in the Moore League being first-year coaches, this year’s Volleyfest wasn’t the all-day event it usually is.

“We’ll get everyone involved again next year, a full slate with the whole day, but we wanted to find a way to keep it going this year since volleyball didn’t get a season last year,” said Wadley. 

The night was extra emotional because Mayfair’s coach, Kevin Hitt, was one of Lewis’ other closest friends in volleyball.

“Kevin coached with Steve and we’d all known each other for more than 20 years,” said Wadley. “There’s a real connection there—so Kevin and I wanted to make sure we kept the tradition going again.”

That’s something Wadley has done very effectively. He won Lakewood’s only state championship in 2007, with Lewis’ jacket draped over the front char on the bench, and the seat left empty. That jacket was there again Saturday, and after the match Wadley, Hitt, and former Poly coach Jeff Eyanson posed for a picture with the jacket and with Steve’s wife, Merrill. Steve and Merrill’s kids played volleyball at Poly for Eyanson.

Both Lakewood and Mayfair teams spent time talking with Merrill, and Wadley showed an emotional tribute video to his team before the match, something he’s been doing since 2005.

“My entire goal is to live up to what Steve did, and what I learned from him, and I hope that I’m fulfilling what he taught me,” said Wadley. “He means a lot to me, still.”

 

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.
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