Central State hires NAIA champion to be inaugural head coach

Photo courtesy of Benedictine Mesa athletics

A national championship coach will take over a new men’s volleyball team at an historically black university.

Central State announced Wednesday that it hired Benedictine Mesa coach Ray Lewis to be the team’s inaugural head coach.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to lead a new era of Central State University volleyball,” Lewis said in a statement. “With the talent pool available in Ohio as well as a growing interest in the sport, we have a great opportunity to establish CSU’s reputation as a volleyball powerhouse.”

Lewis guided Benedictine Mesa to the 2019 NAIA national championship. He also that season was named the conference coach of the year as the Redhawks went undefeated in GSAC play.


Lewis served as an assistant coach in 2017 before being promoted for the 2018 season. Benedictine Mesa under its new head coach reached the NAIA national finals and finished No. 2 in the national rankings.

Along with his time at Benedictine Mesa, Lewis had success in multiple states as a boys’ volleyball high school coach.

He led his high school team to the 2014 Nevada state championship and was the state coach of the year. While an assistant coach at Benedictine Mesa, Lewis coached a local high school team in Arizona and was selected as the 2017 regional coach of the year.

Lewis will serve as the head coach for both the Central State men’s and women’s volleyball teams.

“Throughout his coaching career, coach Lewis has demonstrated his abilities to develop and lead programs to success on and off the court,” athletics director Tara Owens. “We believe coach Lewis will take our women’s volleyball program to new heights while building our men’s program into a perennial contender. Under his guidance, our student-athletes will flourish on the court and in the classroom.”

Central State, a NCAA Division II school in Ohio, was one of six HBCU schools from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that announced in 2019 they would add men’s volleyball programs. The schools were slated to start their programs in 2021 but some schools have delayed the launch of their programs until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic.