Lance Stewart, former volleyball coach and three-sport star at Laguna Beach High, was inducted into the UC Berkeley Sports Hall of Fame last Saturday. He received the award in part for his MVP performance as a setter on Cal’s first club national championship team in 1985. “It was kind of cool,” said Stewart, who was surprised when he found out. “Every year I get the email of the people who are being inducted. This year it was me.”
Stewart was named CIF volleyball player of the year as a high school senior in 1981, when he led Laguna to a 30-0 record and a Southern Section title. That performance earned him full scholarship offers to play at Pepperdine and USC. What Stewart really wanted, though, was a football scholarship, but no offers came. He remembers telling himself at the time, “I’m going to prove these football coaches wrong.”
He turned his back on volleyball and enrolled at two-year school, Saddleback College, where, as a freshman quarterback, he led the Gauchos to the Mission Conference championship and a 13-12 victory over San Diego Mesa in the PONY Bowl. That stellar season, which later earned him induction to Saddleback’s Hall of Fame, caught the attention of Cal recruits. “They came calling, and I answered,” said Stewart.
His football career in Berkeley never really got off the ground. A quarterback at heart, Stewart didn’t take well to the coaches attempts to make him everything but a QB. After an uneventful season, he made peace with his gridiron dream, took a year off, and then tried out for Cal’s club volleyball team.
Stewart went on to coach LBHS’s boys’ volleyball team in two stints over nine years as well the girls’ team from 2004-12. He stepped down last November.
All Stewart has ever cared about, both as player and coach, is helping his team be the best it can be. To him, individual awards just get in the way. “If you’re a coach, you’re trying to sell the idea of team,” he said. “If you’re worried about that stuff, you’re never going to keep improving. It’s out of your control, so why worry about it.”
That’s not to say Stewart doesn’t appreciate his Hall of Fame induction “It’s always nice to be recognized, let’s just say that. Especially from a great university like Cal,” he said. But right now, Stewart is “trying to get a bunch of little 13 year olds better at volleyball. What I’ve done in the past and the awards I’ve gotten don’t mean a whole lot to them. What I’m doing in the moment is what’s important.”