As a talented outside hitter, Karita Lewis helped Maryland School for the Deaf’s volleyball team remain a perennial power.
Now, she’ll try to do the same thing as a coach.
Lewis was recently hired as the Orioles’ new varsity head coach, helming a program she starred in before graduating in 2017.
Lewis, 23, replaces Christine DiMarco, who stepped down to focus on her family, according to an email from MSD athletic director Andy Bonheyo. Last season under DiMarco, the Orioles were named national champions by DeafDigest Sports, marking the 13th time since 2001 that MSD earned that honor.
Bonheyo praised DiMarco’s work during her eight years as a member of MSD’s coaching staff, including the past four as head coach.
When Lewis played for MSD, did she ever envision coaching at her alma mater?
“No, when I was in high school, I never thought I would become the head coach,” Lewis wrote in an email. “It is a good opportunity to give back to my old high school, and I am excited.”
This is Lewis’ first coaching job, but she’s got an impressive volleyball resume. After earning Frederick News-Post All-County first team honors, she went on to star at Gallaudet University, where she earned 2021 United East Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior and was an All-Conference First Team pick in 2019 and 2021 .
In May, Lewis suited up for Team USA women’s volleyball at the Deaflympics in Caxias do Sul, Brazil.
“While this may be Karita’s first head coaching gig, Karita returns to the hardwood with a wealth of experience,” Bonheyo wrote. “Karita is a stand-out student-athlete at the high school and collegiate levels and is known for her tremendous work ethic and enthusiastic nature.”
That work ethic helped Lewis secure an opportunity to compete at the Deaflympics.
“It was an honor to represent the USA Deaf Women’s Volleyball team,” she wrote. “I played with the nation’s elite deaf/hard-of-hearing players and enjoyed the intensity of the high competition. I also loved meeting athletes from all over the world.”
Such encounters have allowed Lewis to broaden her knowledge of volleyball, something she’s been trying to do since she played for the Orioles.
“I have worked with many wonderful former and current Deaf volleyball players/coaches over the years who supported me throughout my volleyball journey to where I am today,” Lewis wrote. “They have contributed to my development in many ways, small and big.”
MSD begins its preseason on Aug. 14. Counting both JV and varsity players, the Orioles have nine returnees in the program.
What sort of traits will Lewis be looking to develop in her players?
“Seeing my players develop different skills, improve each week, and come together as a team as the season progresses,” she wrote. “I want them to have a good mindset and overcome any obstacles they may face in the season.”
The Orioles traditionally successfully navigate any obstacles placed in front of them on the volleyball court, piling up wins and national titles over the years. Being a product of the program, Lewis is fully aware of the raised bar each MSD volleyball team faces each season, but she doesn’t expect the team’s penchant for success to create any problematic pressure.
“I want my players to focus on one game at a time and use the game as our opportunity to get better and continue to improve together, and peak as a team by the end of the regular season,” she wrote. “I am aiming to compete in the league championship. I want to continue the MSD volleyball pride, a program that the school, players, and the community can be proud of.”