Lily Fenton leads Latrobe volleyball team, carries on family legacy

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Monday, September 6, 2021 | 10:14 PM


She is the final sibling from a family known for its athletic excellence to etch her name into Westmoreland County sports folklore.

And she’s just a junior at Latrobe.

Lily Fenton, a 5-foot-6 setter who, in 2020, was a WPIAL first-team all-section player and was recognized by the AAU National Volleyball Executive Committee as an Academic All-American.

“We know the hard work, dedication and time management skills that are required to be a student-athlete of your caliber,” AAU of the United States Inc. wrote in a statement to Fenton in August. “This award is to recognize everything that you do. We look forward to seeing the bright future ahead of you on and off the court.”

Fenton was nominated for the award by Dan Labonte, her AAU coach with Chambersburg-based Revolution Volleyball Club, which also sponsors a team in Pittsburgh.

At Latrobe, she ranked second last year in a class of 315 sophomores and entered this year carrying a 4.3 GPA.

“I want to stress that many times as a coach, you only look at the person as an athlete,” said Drew Vosefski, who has coached boys and girls volleyball at Latrobe. “But Lily is one of the kindest and most generous young ladies I’ve had the honor to coach. She will be a fantastic person, no matter where she goes. I can see her being a coach.”

With Fenton a key part of the lineup, the club’s 16U team posted an 11-2 record and won a bracket title at the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Fla.

She played four consecutive days with a 17U team that finished 23rd among 138 teams in the tournament before playing four more days in succession for the 16U team that won the Emerald Division title.

“My legs kind of gave out on the fifth and sixth days,” she said. “I’d never done anything like that before. But I really enjoyed it, especially playing up with the older girls.”

Fenton was among a select group from her club to play in both divisions.

“Those Fenton kids, Lily included, are the hardest-working players I’ve had,” Vosefski said. “There is no time off.”

Vosefski founded the Latrobe boys program in 2000 and has remained the Wildcats coach since.

He also has served two tours totaling 17 years as girls coach, first leading them for 12 seasons from 2001-12 and then returning in 2017.

He enters his fifth season of his latest stop with the girls team joined by six returning starters from a playoff qualifier that won its third consecutive WPIAL section championship, including Fenton, whose three siblings also played volleyball for Vosefski at Latrobe.

“Jack (Fenton, a 2016 graduate who serves as a lieutenant in the Navy,) was one of the best liberos I’ve ever had,” Vosefski said.

Reed Fenton, a 6-4 junior guard on the Lehigh men’s team, also starred in volleyball at Latrobe.

“Quick Reed Fenton story,” Vosefski said. “There was a big tournament at State College and we’re going against Central York, who was one of the top teams in the state. We beat them. Their best player said to Reed that he should be playing volleyball in college.”

Instead, he chose basketball and has been in the starting lineup in 36 of 47 games covering his first two seasons at Lehigh.

Finally, Emma Fenton is a freshman setter for the St. Francis (Pa.) women’s team, though don’t forget the Fenton’s parents, Neal and Sandy Fenton, both athletes in their own era.

Neal Fenton played basketball first at Navy, alongside the inimitable David Robinson, and then at Lehigh, while Sandy Fenton split time as a volleyball player at Seton Hill and Moravian.

Also, an uncle, Keith Fenton, played basketball at Bucknell.

“Emma was probably our premiere (volleyball) player last year,” Vosefski said. “This year, it’s Lily. They are fantastic players.”

Fenton credits her parents’ tenacity for much of her success.

“My dad is like that,” she said. “He keeps his cool, and if you’ve ever watched my brother, Reed, you can see where he gets it. I’ve been coached by my parents at one point or another, and I take a lot of their energy and positive aspects into how I play.”

Lily Fenton’s mother, Sandy, serves as JV girls volleyball coach at Latrobe, but Lily recalled her mom’s influence as a constant reminder.

“My mom is great with the younger girls,” Lily Fenton said. “I kind of take what she does and use it to my advantage. My mom helps them understand the other aspects of the game. That’s how I kind of lead the team.”

Fenton said the AAU award, her latest achievement, is something she’ll not forget. She hoped it would help in the college recruiting process.

Bucknell, Colgate, East Tennessee State, Indiana, Lehigh, Navy, St. Francis and Villanova have been in touch with her, she said, as well as several Division II schools — Seton Hill and Slippery Rock among them — and Division III power Juniata.

“Lily is the epitome of a coachable athlete,” Vosefski said. “You hear this a lot, but it’s true in this instance: She is an extension of me on the court. I don’t have to give direction on a constant basis because she’s doing it for me. That allows me to focus on other things.”

Vosefski didn’t stop at that.

“She’s a student of the game,” he said. “She’s always a step ahead. She knows her team and she knows the other team, which only makes her team better.”

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