Sonny Lewis anchors the Owens volleyball coaching staff for the 19th time in 2019, after a record setting 2018, which saw the program win its first ever NJCAA National Championship. Lewis's team defeated defending champion Eastfield 3-2 in a thrilling conclusion to another dominant season for the Express.
He garnered win No. 600 back on 9/16/17. He has compiled a 668-196 record during his tenure, which has never seen a losing season. In OCCAC play, he has registered a 210-14 record and enters the 2019 season with a 60-match winning streak in conference play.
2019 was a dream season for Coach Lewis and the Express. They team lost their first match of the season and then reeled off 18 straight wins to vault them to #2 in the national rankings for Division III, adn the team would finish the season as the top ranked team in the country. Owens would have its second straight undefeated conference season, and they would go on to sweep the Regional and District Tournaments, never dropping a set along the way. In national tournament play, Owens would win in straight sets against its first two opponents, before beating Eastfield in five sets to win the program's first national title. Lewis had his first national player of the year when Michaela Eisenhauer was named for Division III. He also won the Division III NJCAA Coach of the Year as well.
2018 was a record breaking season for Lewis and the volleyball program. His team garnered their first #1 overall ranking in the NJCAA Division II Poll on 9/26/17 and held onto the top spot until the end of the regular season. The team won their first 40 matches in a row before falling in the Division II National Championship game. The Express's national runner-up finish is the highest for the program at the Division II level, and it also marked the second year in a row that Lewis's team finished in the top three of the National Tournament. He had two All-Americans produced from the team as well.
Over the past four seasons alone, Lewis has led Owens to a 155-24 record overall, including a 56-2 record in OCCAC play. In the past three years, the program has won three OCCAC championships in a row, a trifecta of Region XII District F tournament titles and made three appearances in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. From 2010-12, he led Owens to a 124-25 record overall and a 35-1 record in OCCAC play.
During his tenure, Owens has captured 15 OCCAC championships (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and seven Region XII District E/F titles (2003, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017). At the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, he has finished second (second), third (2016), fourth (2012), fifth (2003) and ninth (2015).
On top of that, Lewis is an nine-time OCCAC coach of the year (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017) and a six-time Region XII District E/F coach of the year (2003, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017).
In 2016, Lewis led Owens to a 41-5 record overall and a 14-0 mark in OCCAC play. The team spent four weeks, or all of October, ranked No. 2 in the nation, which was the highest ranking in the program's history at the Division II level. The team won 16 straight matches from Oct. 7 through Nov. 17. In the postseason, Owens won the Region XII District F championship and advanced to the NJCAA Division II Final Four before finishing third in the nation.
In 2015, Lewis led the team to a 40-7 overall record (14-0 OCCAC), an OCCAC championship, a Region XII District E championship and a ninth place finish at the NJCAA Division II national tournament. The team achieved an 18-match winning streak at one point that featured just six set losses over that stretch. Following the season, he was named the OCCAC Coach of the Year and Region XII Coach of the Year.
This 2014 season a special one for Lewis as the team captured his 500th win at Owens with a straight set win over Lorain County Community College on Oct. 22. The team finished the season 34-11 overall and 12-2 in OCCAC play, which was good for second place. He guided the team to the Region XII District E loser's bracket finals before falling to No. 6 Columbus State.
In 2011, Lewis won his 400th match with a win over No. 20 Carl Sandburg College before leading the team to program records for fewest losses and best winning percentage (.900). In 2012, the team went 37-11 and advanced to the NJCAA Division II Final Four before finishing fourth in the nation.
While at Owens, Lewis has coached five NJCAA Division II First Team All-Americans (Niki Polce, 2017; Brooke Gyori, 2016; Macy Reigelsperger, 2015; Dakia Sellers, 2012; Ashley Hill, 2004), six NJCAA Division II Second Team Athletic All-Americans (including Erika Angstmann in 2017), and four NJCAA Div. II Honorable Mention Athletic All-Americans. He has also coached a two-time All-American three times (Gyori in 2015-16; Brittany Egbert in 2010-11 and Stephanie Champine in 2006-07). Moreover, Lewis has coached 24 NJCAA Academic All-Americans through the 2016-17 school year, and Gyori became the program's first ever AVCA All-American in 2016.
In addition to nationally honored student-athletes, Lewis has coached 72 All-OCCAC and 12 OCCAC Player of the Year student-athletes, including 2017 recipient Niki Polce, 2016 recipient Brooke Gyori, 2015 recipient Macy Reigelsperger and two-time winners Stephanie Champine (2006-07) and Brittany Egbert (2010-11). At the region level, Lewis has coached 43 All-Region XII players, as well as 31 Region XII All-Tournament team selections. Of those 31, fivw have been named tournament MVP (Devon Heitkamp in 2017, Christine Tylutki in 2016, Reigelsperger in 2015, Alyssa Meis in 2012 and Egbert in 2010).
In the fall of 2016, Owens placed 10 of 12 volleyball student athletes on the OCCAC's fall all-academic team. The team followed that up with nine selections in the spring 2017 semester. Following the year, seven student-athletes earned NJCAA All-Academic team recognition, which is a program record for most in one season.
Through the 2018 season, Lewis has also coached 36 student-athletes who have moved on to four-year schools after their time with the Express, including eleven over the past three years alone. Gyori and Reigelsperger signed with NCAA D-I University of Tennessee Martin, Erika Hartings signed with NCAA Division II Francis Marion University, Taylor Purcell and Christine Tylutki signed with NAIA Siena Heights University and Deanna Smith, Annie Lindeman and Tyanna Smith each signed with NAIA Shawnee State University. Prior to that, 2012 graduate Molly Hilfinger moved on to NCAA Division II Ursuline College, where she had 951 assists as a senior in 2014.
Prior to assuming the head coaching duties at Owens, Lewis served as the head volleyball coach at Springfield High School in Holland, Ohio. In 22 seasons, he won 373 matches and seven Northern Lakes League, 15 sectional, six district and two regional championships. Two of his Blue Devil teams played in the state semifinals.
Lewis won numerous coach of the year honors at the high school level, including seven in the NLL and six in District 7. He twice was named Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association Coach of the Year and was tabbed once as Ohio Coach of the Year by the National Federation Interscholastic Coaches Association.
Lewis is a member of the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame and Springfield Hall of Fame. Residing in Toledo, he earned his bachelor's degree in comprehensive social studies from Defiance College in 1970.