Since 1993, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School varsity boys’ volleyball team has won every single league game it has playe

Since 1993, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School varsity boys’ volleyball team has won every single league game it has played.

Multiple players have gone on to play at the college level. This season, the team and its community of fans continue the winning tradition.

Part of this tradition is coach Chip Fenenga, who has been coaching boys’ volleyball at the high school since 1992.

Yet even with more than a decade of coaching under his belt, Fenenga always manages to have a personal relationship with the students.

He enjoys watching them go on to be successful after high school, even if it’s not in volleyball.

 

He enjoys watching the athletes learn how to work as a team, and how to accept success and failure.

“If I didn’t enjoy that, I wouldn’t do it,” Fenenga said in an interview before undergoing a recent surgery for a recurrence of cancer.

This year, the players are extremely talented, though due to some weaknesses, such as lack of experience and a weaker transition defense, the team has had a few losses in non-league games.

Within the Los Padres League, senior team captain Jon Bridgeman says that there are many good rivalries between the schools.

 

Fenenga said the emphasis on one-sport athletes has hurt the high school sports world, including volleyball. This means there are fewer potential players because students are focusing on just one sport year-round, often in the hope of earning a college scholarship.

Despite this, the team has carried on. With powerful blocking and hitters the team has been very successful.

Bridgeman believes the pivotal factors in success are team bonding, balancing seriousness and fun — and winning the first game against any opponent.

Bridgeman and Nick Donati, the team’s captains, rally their teammates together, and keep them from getting too serious or too silly.

 

“If we all get too serious, the team won’t function properly, but the team does know how to have fun,” Bridgeman said.

Of the impressive 16-year Los Padres League winning streak, Bridgeman says that the “responsibility to the players who came before me to try my best and to keep up the volleyball tradition” inspires him, as well as his team, because “it is something constant to fight for.”

The large group of seniors has been playing together for a long time, and has a special connection which is essential to their success.

Another source of support for Fenenga and the team is the volleyball community at the high school. Teachers, parents, friends, and players’ girlfriends alike come together to support their team.

 

“It’s great to have that sort of community around us,” Bridgeman said.

Although Fenenga believes every team is special, this year’s team might be as close to being a family as any team has come. A family gives its members love and support, and so does the team.

Bridgeman softly says that “the team’s success gives [Fenenga] hope when he is fighting cancer.” 

After beating the disease when he was diagnosed in 2007, he recently suffered a recurrence and had surgery at Stanford University Hospital in early April.

Fenenga sums the whole program up in one succinct sentence: “You know, it’s just a great experience.”