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Chip Fenenga, Santa Ynez's record-setting volleyball coach, elected to CIF Hall of Fame
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Chip Fenenga, Santa Ynez's record-setting volleyball coach, elected to CIF Hall of Fame

Chip Fenenga has earned a lifetime's worth of accolades, but it seems as though the honors don't ever stop. 

One more has been added to the list: Fenenga has been elected to the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame.

Fenenga becomes the second coach from Santa Ynez High School to earn that recognition, joining former Santa Ynez basketball coaching legend JoAnn Reck, who was inducted in 2018.

Though the rare honor is aimed at distinguishing careers that saw unparalleled success on the playing field, Fenenga said it has a different meaning for him.

"It’s one of those things that tells you you’ve been doing it a long time, which means you're old," Fenenga quipped.

On a serious note, Fenenga admitted that he was "really proud for the kids that played volleyball here and proud for the school and the sport in the area."

"We were part of a bunch of good teams over here over the last 20 or so years," Fenenga said.

Fenenga founded the boys volleyball program at Santa Ynez and led teams to jaw-dropping levels of success. The Pirates won seven CIF Southern Section titles and made the finals 10 times. The boys program qualified for the playoffs 29 years in a row and set CIF records with 19 consecutive league championships, 208 straight league wins and four straight CIFSS titles, according to athletic director Ashley Coelho.

Fenenga also coached girls volleyball at Santa Ynez and won a total of 30 league championships across both sports. His boys teams won 75 percent of their matches, with him reaching 476 wins as head coach. The Pirates were named the mythical national champions by Volleyball Monthly.

On the boys side, Fenenga produced 18 NCAA Division 1 players, four NCAA National Players of the Year and three U.S. Olympians.

He coached girls volleyball for 10 seasons and made the CIF playoffs all 10 years, winning seven Los Padres League titles. Fenenga went 199-86 coaching girls volleyball. His girls teams reached the CIF semifinals twice and the quarterfinals six times. His teams produced six NCAA Division 1 players.

Fenenga couldn't pick out a favorite moment on the court, instead reflecting on moments away from competition and the sacrifices made by his family in order for him to coach for multiple decades, particularly the efforts of his wife Julene.

"I’m most grateful for the way my wife handled everything; I was gone a lot," Fenenga said. "Riding the bus home at 10 at night. My kids were babies, they would ride on the bus with me. It wouldn't be possible without her understanding and support.

"In terms of moments, they all revolve around the students, the athletes and their success. There were a lot of wins, a lot of losses. But more than anything, it was just being part of something. Being a part of a team, being competitive and playing really good teams. Sometimes we would come away with a win, sometimes we didn’t."

Fenenga started the boys program at Santa Ynez in 1992 when there was no league for the sport. He coached at the JV level for the girls program for 10 years (1990-2000), eventually taking over the varsity spot in 2006.

Fenenga continued to lead his programs to league titles despite learning of a stage four cancer diagnosis 14 years ago. 

"I'm doing great," Fenenga said of his diagnosis. "It's coming up on 14 years now. I was really, really blessed to have my wife. She was my primary caregiver and I appreciate everything she did. My two kids were also by my side, my son Russ and daughter Sarah."

Fenenga also reflected on the development of his coaching style from the start of his career to his retirement from coaching in 2018. Fenenga says he was primarily fueled by a desire to win at first, but eventually mellowed out toward the end of his career, focusing more on the journeys his teams took.

"When I first started out, I really wanted to win," he said. "It’s nice to say you're successful by developing good volleyball players, but you really wanted that 'W.' I really, really was a lot more focused on those early wins. I wanted to establish a certain credibility and confidence. That may have come at the expense of developing other styles and how to relate (to the players). As I got older and more involved, I was able to relax more and enjoy it.

"Early on it was really stressful, going down to play Santa Barbara, we really wanted those wins... A lot changed after the cancer diagnosis, that focused me a lot more on the process and being part of something."

Fenenga, who taught at the school for more than 30 years, also retired from teaching as this past school year ended. 

"Chip has been an excellent role model to our students, and I appreciate how much he cares about our school and Pirate Pride," Coelho said in an email. "He is also an amazing friend and he always has your back.  There is no one more deserving of this award than Chip."

Fenenga said there are plans to have an induction ceremony this fall, though any ceremony will likely be delayed or held virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fenenga's boys teams won CIF titles from 1995-97 to 1999-03, winning seven championships in eight seasons.


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