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Lakewood volleyball coach Mike Wadley hit a rare milestone last week, as he won his 500th game as head coach of the Lancers. Wadley is believed to be the first high school volleyball coach in Long Beach or the Moore League to cross 500 varsity wins–Cal-Hi sports only keeps official coaching records for football, basketball, and baseball/softball, so official records don’t exist statewide.
Wadley has certainly made history at Lakewood however. His 2007 state champs are the only CIF State championship team in school history, and he’s won a quarter of the school’s league titles in the 19 years he’s been the head coach of the Lancers. Wadley has said this will be his final season as head coach at Lakewood.
“It’s hard to be an athletic director and a coach, and I think I can serve the school and the league at a higher capacity,” Wadley said before the season. “I want to make our athletic program better and make people want to come here… And my sense of urgency and focus is increased because I know there’s an endgame.”
It hasn’t been the season Wadley and the Lancers were hoping for, as they’ve struggled with a young roster and injuries. Still, Lakewood is improving as they have each year under Wadley. They went to the prestigious Durango tournament in Vegas last weekend needing four wins to get Wadley to 500 career victories, and they achieved it.
After a loss to Poly on Thursday, Wadley was reflective about his historic career, and said he hadn’t been keeping track of the countdown to 500.
“I actually forgot about it, but (assistant coach Adam Wadley) has been really good about keeping track of it and he came over after the win and hugs me sand says, ‘500.’ That was awesome,” he said.
Wadley, known as a fiery motivator, has grown more sentimental over the years and has been really soaking in his final weeks coaching the Lancers. A setter from his first boys’ team flew out from Virginia to see a match last week, and the parents of Olympian Dean Bittner (who he coached at Lakewood) were on hand for the Poly match too.
“There’s so many things going through your mind with all these ‘lasts,’ we’ll have our last home game next week,” he said. “I’m going to miss it, but I’m not going to miss it. I really do think I can be of better service in another role, and I’m ready to pass the torch–the cupboard isn’t bare and we have great assistant coaches, I’m leaving it in good hands.”
He also acknowledged that it’s been frustrating not having a good season, with the Lancers at an under-.500 record.
“You know, you don’t win all the time, and I’ve been able to handle that as competitive as I am,” he said. “We’ve had one down year in 19 years, I can’t complain about that. Having a bond with the girls, having Wilson present me with a lei, having (Poly coach Gerald Aquiningoc) come up and tell me he loves me after the match, (Millikan coach Ashleigh Atsaros) has been great…the league is in good hands. We’ve got younger people but they’re good people.”
Wadley said he’s happy with his career and glad that he accomplished so much, but even more happy about the connections he made. “It’s always about the people, and I’ve been really lucky,” he said. “I just hope I’ve lived up to the standard of the people before me and the people who’ve mentored me.”