VOLLEYBALL

York Catholic's Phil Autrey set to move on from volleyball coaching

Autrey led the Fighting Irish to the district title and state final in 2022 after deciding to step away.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

They say that all good things in life must come to an end. In the world of high school athletics, even the most successful coaches will one day call it quits.

For York Catholic girls’ volleyball coach Phil Autrey, that time is now.

Autrey, who led the Fighting Irish to a spot in the PIAA Class 2A finals this fall, notified his team and the administration earlier this winter that he would not be returning to the bench next year after a decade-long run leading the program to unprecedented heights.

“It was about halfway through the season this year that I kind of officially made the decision,” said Autrey, who tallied a 143-58 record over a 10-year span. “So, this wasn’t something that I just decided about out of the blue.”

York Catholic's coach Phillip Autrey after their loss to Freeport in the PIAA Class 2A championship in Mechanicsburg on Nov. 19, 2022.

The past few years have been a bit more trying for Autrey after he transitioned from his position as a teacher at York Catholic to a career in the private sector. He works for Noodle, a company that helps colleges develop online programs and courses, and his new job includes more frequent cross-country travel.

“I really thought about this before the season,” Autrey said. “When you’re coaching as a teacher and then not as a teacher, it’s very different. You just don’t have the same type of schedule and the schedule just gets more difficult. This past season, I had times in August, September and October blocked off on my calendar and then (during the playoffs) I was kind of going week-by-week. And I’m not one that is going to say, 'The next month, we’ll be the in playoffs,' because I don’t want to jinx it.”

Clearly, Autrey didn’t jinx it, as his Fighting Irish claimed their first District 3 Class 2A title after five years of near misses. Autrey, who also led the team to the 2015 District 3 Class 1A title, helped navigate the program through three victories in the state tournament before they ultimately fell to Freeport in the title match.

“The uncertainly of it all certainly caused a little bit more stress in my life,” Autrey said. “(Missing the state championship for work) probably wouldn’t have happened, but it kind of did in the preseason when I had to go to San Diego. That was like the week before our first match against Delone (Catholic) and I just realized that wasn’t quite ideal, but I found a way to make it work.”

York Catholic against Trinity in the PIAA District 3 Class 2A girls volleyball final in York on Nov. 3, 2022.

Part of the stress was that Autrey, who was 53-9 over the past three seasons, had already come to his decision about his future, but wasn’t willing to share that with his team during such a pivotal moment in the program’s history. Expectations were high throughout the season for a squad that many picked to be among the best in the state, so Autrey — who finishes with five York-Adams Division III titles — didn’t want his personal decision to become a distraction.

“I waited until after we had our all-school assembly for all of the fall sports in the first week in December,” Autrey said. “I certainly wanted to make sure the season was over before I told them.”

When the team learned of the news, many of the girls were shocked. Autrey’s passion for the sport has never been in question and he’s earned the admiration of his coaching peers throughout the York-Adams League as one of the top coaches in the area.

“They were surprised,” Autrey said. “And that’s because that’s not really every something I’ve ever talked about with the players. I think that every senior class that has played for me has said, ‘Oh, you’re going to leave when we’re done,’ so one of those senior classes is going to be right and it just turned out that it was this one.”

While Autrey is finished as the coach of the girls’ volleyball team, he remains committed to coaching this spring the York Catholic boys’ program that he started two years ago.

“With the boys, I just didn’t feel right to wait until after the season to tell them in May or June that I wouldn’t be coming back to coach (the girls) in August,” Autrey said. “And with the boys it’s a little bit of different story because we’ve only had a couple of years with the program.”

Autrey's final season will begin in late March.