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Super Seniors: State Player of the Year Renninger gets 1 final trophy


Super Seniors is a five-part series highlighting some exceptional area members of the Class of 2024.

“I was definitely very quiet my sophomore year, coming into a new team. I was scared to take the ball or take a shot because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes,” Ava Renninger recently admitted.

For someone who is softer spoken, Renninger created some ear-splittingly loud sports moments in her high school career.

On May 16, the Archbishop Wood senior quarterback threw a game-winning Hail Mary touchdown with no time left as the Vikings topped Conwell-Egan 20-19 in the Philadelphia Catholic League’s inaugural girls flag football championship.

“With my dad being a football coach, I leaned into football a little more,” Renninger explained. “I always wanted to play but never did. Flag football would be a good opportunity to finally take a chance at playing.”

Far more significantly, Renninger scored her 1,000th career basketball point in front of 8,700-plus people on an overtime free throw at the Palestra, as Wood topped Archbishop Carroll 54-52 in double OT for the 2024 PCL crown. Renninger’s 22 points paced the Vikings in her favorite game.

“It’s hard to beat the PCL championship and that place,” she reflected. The 23-24 Vikings, who had fallen agonizingly short of the crown last year, got over the hump “because we all experienced last year. We felt what it was like playing there and we felt what it was like losing there,” Renninger added. “We were set on winning. There was no loss on our mind at all.”

Four weeks later, Renninger and the Vikings topped Cathedral Prep 37-27 to win their fourth straight PIAA title. Renninger, who led Wood with over 13 points and three assists per game, was crowned Pennsylvania 5A Player of the Year; Wood head coach Mike McDonald grabbed Coach of the Year.

Renninger cited leadership and defense as the biggest areas where her game improved. “I let the seniors lead last year. Obviously you have to be vocal as a point guard but I wasn’t as much of a leader on and off the court as I was this year,” she said. “That was a bigger role for me: keeping everyone in check, making sure we were competitive in practices and pushing everyone as hard as they could be pushed.

“My defense grew more and more over the three years. I’ve learned a lot about positioning and how to play in the right spots,” she concluded.

The awards, titles and Division I scholarship weren’t guaranteed when the Renningers moved from Central Pennsylvania to Bucks County just before Ava’s sophomore year. As an impressive freshman, Renninger led a 17-4 Central Mountain team in points, assists and steals. But the Philadelphia Catholic League was a new world.

“It was a lot harder moving away from my family and friends. Basketball-wise, it was definitely a bigger step. It was a lot faster pace,” Renninger recalled. “I had to learn defense. I could mostly freelance from where I was from and do whatever I needed. It was more structured here: run your plays and run your defense. It was a lot of learning my sophomore year.”

Wood won state titles in Renninger’s sophomore and junior years. Those champions had two things apparently missing from the 2023-24 Vikings: a height advantage and a blue chip recruit. Yet Renninger and her teammates answered the bell for the four-peat.

“We had seven seniors and a pretty fit structure going into my junior year. I think we were a little skeptical coming into my senior year, we didn’t have the leaders as much,” Renninger realized. “Lauren (Greer), Alexa (Windish) and I knew we had to step up and build that chemistry together as a team. That was really important to us since that is something that can make a team better.

“We didn’t need a star player and going into Best of Maryland helped us see that. We got far in that tournament against some pretty good teams,” Renninger continued. “We saw what we could do if we passed the ball, shared the ball, if no one was selfish and we communicated as a team.” Shortly after that Christmas tournament, Wood (26-5) started its season-ending 15-game win streak – all but one win by double digits.

Renninger heads to Fairleigh Dickinson for next basketball season. “I think, like most girls growing up, you want to go to a school like UConn or Oregon. But I started to realize, as I got talked to by coaches, that it wasn’t necessarily the biggest school that I needed. It was: what is the best fit for me?” Renninger mused.

Former FDU coach Angelika Szumilo offered Renninger, then took the job at Iona. “I got re-offered by Coach (Stephanie) Gaitley. She is a great coach with a ton of history,” Renninger said. “She talked about how I would fit into their system. It felt like the right place for me to be. It was meant to be getting re-offered. It was a good spot not too far from home. If I wanted to coach in the future, she has some great connections in the Philly area that she has said she would love to use.”

One big takeaway from Renninger’s hoops journey is increased confidence in her ample talent. “Building my confidence was something I definitely had to learn,” she shared. “I was confident in my abilities but I wasn’t as confident in showing them as I was my senior year.

“It has all gone by so fast. I wish I had taken it in a little bit more instead of getting ready for the next thing or step,” Renninger concluded. Fortunately, as she leaves Wood as one of its all-time greats, she has another college basketball chapter to grow, write and savor.

Note: Wood’s Jalil Bethea won the boys 6A Player of the Year. He was featured in the Herald’s Nov. 30 edition.

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