Memorial to Steven Koumanelis

October 14, 2018 | By

















Steven Koumanelis, 1968 – 2018

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Steven Koumanelis, a longtime member of ACTA, most recently part of the Highly Strung team in the BC division, passed away on September 19 after a battle with cancer.

I am the captain of Highly Strung, and when I was asked to write a tribute to Steven, I also asked my teammates to share some of their recollections of him. So what follows is a team effort—the way Steven would have wanted it. We all feel Steven’s loss deeply, and our heart goes out to his family. At age 50, he was much too young to have died.

I first met Steven when he was on an opposing team, Ricky’s Revenge. Some of you may remember Steven for his attire—he was the short, wiry blonde on the side of the court often dressed in a black Ricky Martin T-shirt, acid-washed jean jacket, khaki shorts, and, says his frequent partner Marjorie O’Brien, “shoes with absolutely no tread.” I had asked him once if he was a big Ricky Martin fan and he said no, not really—and he’d not seen him in concert. He wore the shirts as a lark—he had three of them. Steven was like that: He loved a good laugh.

Anyone who watched Steven play or who played against him could see that joy on the court. He would chase every ball, and even dive for balls he had no business going after—someone on our team once nicknamed him “Gumby” because he could do a split on the court, or roll on the ground, then bounce right back up. At the side of the court, I usually heard at least one “Are you okay?” from his opponents during a match. He always was. Recalls teammate Jennifer Huppert: “He’d smile, get up, and get ready for the next shot—whether he got to the ball or not—just another day on the court. His spirit and energy on the court was magnetic; whether you were his partner or his opponent, you appreciated his drive and positive attitude. He entertained players and onlookers alike, and I’m not sure it was even intentional. That’s just who Steven was.”

Says Marjorie: “He was always positive, even when we were down. As a matter of fact, he preferred losing the first set, saying it was ‘bad luck’ to win the first set. We’d joke after losing the first set, ‘Okay, this is exactly how we want it.’ I had a few epic matches with him, and every match was an adventure. Along the way, we laughed a lot.”

One of his most faithful fans was his mom, Marika, who came to almost every match he played. (Except the ones at Ft. Scott, because, he once told me, he wasn’t sure his mother could find those courts!) “You can’t think of Steven,” says Jennifer, “without thinking about his sweet mom. She was a quiet cheerleader at many matches, setting up her chair as close to the court as she could wherever Steven was playing. She applauded Steven’s efforts as well as others on the team.”

Most of all, Steven loved a fun match. He wanted to have fun on the court much more than he ever wanted to win. He once told me he preferred losing an entertaining match with nice opponents to winning a match that wasn’t friendly. I played with Steven now and then, and as his partner and his captain, it was both endearing and, frankly, infuriating! I’d want to win! But he was right: At the end of the day, it is never about winning or losing. As cliché as it sounds, it’s about how you play the game. Steven played with infectious energy and joy, and we at Highly Strung will miss his laughter and smile.

—Sherri Dalphonse




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  1. Jacqueline Lawrence on Oct 15, 7:44 am

    On behalf of the Board of ACTA, I wish to express our deepest condolences to the family of Steve Koumanelis, who played on Sherri Dalphonse’s team “Highly Strung”. As a Captain myself in the C and BC Divisions, my team and Sherri’s had a longstanding friendly rivalry and Steve was always present, ready to cheer on his team whether playing or not. When playing, you couldn’t fail to miss Steve’s exuberant personality. ACTA has lost a great advocate for the game of tennis.
    Jacqueline Lawrence
    Captain, Mad Dogs & Englishwoman