The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s volleyball coverage is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation
It’s a case of “bad news, good news” for the defending undefeated Moore League champions, who also went 23-3 on the season. The bad news is the Lancers graduated some really significant seniors last year, including All-American Laura Williams, the Moore League Player of the Year who’s readying for a big freshman season at Oregon State.
The good news is the team returns three Division 1-committed seniors in key roles.
“We’ll be good, I don’t know how good yet,” said Lakewood coach Mike Wadley. “We need more experience outside of our returners–we have a chance to be really special in October but we’ve got a lot of work to do to get there.”
Leading the way is that trio of returning seniors, who will also share captain duties. Samarah DaCoud is a hyper-athletic outside hitter committed to New Mexico, Fatima Hall is a strong setter who’s committed to San Diego State, and Courtni Youngblood is a rangy libero committed to UC Santa Barbara.
“They’re really good leaders, they’re very patient with everyone,” said Wadley. “We’ve got athleticism, we’ve got speed, it’s just the experience. What we do this year is really up to them–we have the tools.”
The Lancers will get a good look at where they’re starting from as they face Marymount and Mater Dei in the second week of the season. It’s been a struggle getting ramped up for the year as the Lancers are without a gym while the Lakewood gym is being resurfaced. That’s led them to shuffle league matches to basically play the first half of the season on the road.
The team will also feature some old faces in new places, as Zaria Thornton and Nyla Hankins take over at middle blocker, and Jade Epps slides over to be the second outside hitter. At opposite, the team will feature talented sophomore Lala Hall, possibly the team’s most versatile player at an athletic 5-10.
“A lot of those girls have varsity experience but they didn’t play in these positions last year, so their learning curve will be a big factor in how good we can be, how fast,” said Wadley.
One of the Lancers’ greatest strengths over the last several years has been Wadley and a deep, experienced group of assistant coaches. Wadley is in his 25th year coaching at Lakewood, and 19th as head coach. The Lancers won five league titles in their first 30 years as a program, but have won seven since Wadley took over. He’s had a knack for getting the most out of his team, often making deeper-than-expected playoff runs or taking down programs ranked higher or featuring bigger players, both in league and in the postseason.
Backing him up is his son, Adam, in his 10th year volunteering with the program, Cookie Feomaia (ninth year), former Warren coach Brad Simons (second year), and Lance Williams, Jessica Kaeka, and Michele Kaeka.
“Our assistants make it go,” said Wadley. “I set up what my vision is and they mold and do what they want to do around that–having head coaching experience is huge, and we get so much energy from all of them. Everyone has something to offer–it makes my job a lot easier.”
The Lancers will face La Canada (8 a.m.) and South Torrance (4 p.m.) at Artesia this Saturday to open pool play for the Tae Kim Lakewood/Molten Classic.