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The Yellow Springs High School Varsity Volleyball team was the Metro Buckeye Conference champ this season, with a conference record of 7–1. from left, front row: #11 Ariana Robertson, #3 Adeline Zinger, #5 Chloe Bayard, #8 Violet Babb and #9 Ru Robertson. Back row: Head Coach Phil Renfro, Assistant Coach Tracy Clark, #14 Lacey Longshaw, #4 Vivian Bryan, #10 Ella Laws, #2 Malayna Buster, #16 Hannah Parker, #13 Josephine Zinger and Assistant Coach Stephanie Zinger. (Submitted photo by Michael Knemeyer)

YSHS Volleyball | Phil Renfro named coach of the year

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Coach Phil Renfro has his head in the game year-round.

A lifelong athlete and a lover of all sports, Renfro, 39, has worked with hundreds of student athletes in Yellow Springs and beyond over the last two decades. Baseball, golf, soccer, basketball, volleyball — Renfro has coached it all throughout the region.

For the Yellow Springs High School Bulldogs, Renfro has coached the boys basketball team for the past seven years, junior varsity baseball for three years and volleyball for five years — that’s a sport for each season in the school year.

Volleyball, however, holds a special place in his heart: It’s the bedrock of some of his most important relationships. Renfro’s wife, Lizaiha, was a college athlete at the University of Buffalo and, eventually, a professional player in Puerto Rico. Now, she and Renfro have coached alongside each other at various volleyball clubs for the last eight years.

But since the Bulldog’s volleyball season kicked off this fall, Renfro’s focus returned to Yellow Springs — and it paid off.

Yellow Springs High School volleyball coach Phil Renfro was dubbed coach of the year by the Metro Buckeye Conference. Renfro has coached the volleyball team for the last five years. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Following the YSHS varsity volleyball team’s championship win in the Metro Buckeye Conference last month, Renfro was honored for leading the team to victory. Renfro was named coach of the year by the conference.

“These girls are just amazing,” Renfro said. “We’re not a physically dominant team, so we have to rely on defense and hustle. I have to be the best possible coach since we don’t have the stature that other teams do and our competition is so fierce.”

The Bulldogs went 7–1 in their conference this season, and shared in the MBC championship with Dayton Christian, whose conference record was also 7–1.

“The buildup to the championship was insane,” Renfro said. “We played Dayton Christian twice this year — winning one game [on Sept. 29] and losing the other [on Sept. 1]. But that victory was the only time Dayton Christian lost in the last three years.”

In postseason play, the Bulldogs faced a final defeat against Covington on Oct. 18. The loss brought the team’s season record to 15–8.

Renfro said that the talents of each and every girl on the team made the successful season possible.

“Every player had a role,” he said.

But the standout volleyballers, he said, were #10, Ella Laws, who Renfro described as the most improved player this year; #14, Lacey Longshaw, who had over 300 kills — more than any other player in the district; #13, Josephine Zinger, who clocked over 1,700 assists this season and holds the all-time school record for assists; and Zinger’s younger sister, #3 Adeline Zinger.

“People are really starting to recognize [sophomore] Adeline Zinger,” Renfro said. “She had 394 digs, so skillwise, she’s very important to the general function on our team. She’s really been able to assume the role of a growing leader for the team.”

Senior Vivian Bryan, Renfro said, showed the most improvement over the years he’d ever seen in a volleyball player.

“It almost makes me emotional to think of what she’s accomplished,” Renfro said. “Not only did she have 50 kills this year, but she’s become one of the best passers in the league. She’s a great sport to her own teammates and to other players.”

For Renfro, growing a cohesive team of confident players and leaders all stems from an emphasis on mutual trust — between him and the players, and between the players themselves — both on and off the court.

“In a sentence, my coaching philosophy is to trust one another,” Renfro said. “If that trust is in place, then we can have the hard conversations necessary to pull through the losses and know why we won.”

He added: “Winning is one thing, but knowing how to lose and overcome adverse situations — together, as a team — is even more important. That’s a lesson these girls can take with them for the rest of their lives.”

Although the YSHS varsity volleyball team is losing two heavy-hitting seniors this year — Josephine Zinger and Vivian Bryan — Renfro said he’s optimistic about what the future holds for his team.

“If I’m doing my job correctly, then I’m developing all my players with an eye to the future,” he said. “This year, I had five freshmen who by the end of the season were sitting on the varsity bench. Next year is looking really good for us.”

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