The562’s coverage of Long Beach Volleyball in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation.
The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
The Lakewood girls’ volleyball team held a Signing Day ceremony Thursday afternoon in Tim Sweeney Gymnasium to recognize three seniors who are signing Division 1 NCAA scholarships. Outside hitter Samara DaCoud signed with New Mexico, libero Cortni Youngblood signed with UCSB, and setter Fatimah Hall signed with San DIego State.
“As their coach for the last four years, they’ve been amazing,” said Lakewood coach Mike Wadley, who just wrapped up his 19th year coaching the Lancers. “They’re the three best leaders I’ve ever had. They’re very deserving of this…they all bought in. As their coach, thank you.”
The Lancers went 54-14 over the last two seasons including 24-0 in the Moore League, only dropping one set over the last two years. Their season recently ended in a sweep loss in San Diego to undefeated Cathedral Catholic; the Lancers made the Open Division of the State playoffs, putting them in the top eight in California.
Adding to the special feel for this senior class is the fact that all three senior signees are close both on and off the court.
“We’ve spent so much time together, four years in club and in high school, we basically grew up together,” said Hall, who is the second Hall sister to sign a D1 scholarship out of Lakewood in recent years, joining her older sister Keke who is playing at CSU Fullerton. “It’s really fun to see us all make it.”
Youngblood is a player who came to Lakewood wanting to be a setter, and then switched positions to libero after realizing that Hall was going to have the setter position locked down. Wadley pointed out that took a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness on Youngblood’s part.
“The transition was definitely hard, but worth it,” said Youngblood. “There were moments when I would be so frustrated with myself for not passing the ball correctly, or not getting it to Fatima perfectly. But last year I feel like I really figured it out, and my teammates were always there encouraging me which made it so much easier.”
Youngblood echoed Hall’s comments about how special it was to get to celebrate a Signing Day with her senior teammates.
“I love them so much, they’re not just my teammates, they’re my best friends,” she said. “We hang out all the time off the court. I know that when we go on to college, we’ll still be keeping in contact with each other. And all three of us started here together four years ago so it’s great that we were able to experience this together.”
For DaCoud, there was a feeling of pride at what she and her friends and teammates accomplished during their time at Lakewood, battling through the COVID-19 shutdown and uncertainty and coming out of it with back-to-back undefeated Moore League championships.
“I’m extremely grateful, and to be able to sit here and say we did what we said we’d accomplish is amazing,” she said.
DaCoud also expressed confidence that the bonds forged while the trio were Lancers won’t be broken any time soon.
“I’ve been able to talk with them about anything,” she said. “I did it with my best friends. These are the girls I’d have a sleepover with or ask to be my Maid of Honor. I’ll always cherish my time with them here.”