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Sep 05, 2012

Hokies goalkeeper Kyle Renfro credits experience, new goalkeepers coach to early season success

Kyle Renfro with first-year goalkeepers coach Chris Rich (Photo from Virginia Tech Athletics).

 By Quinn Casteel | ACC Own the Pitch 

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No goalkeeper in the ACC is hotter right now than Virginia Tech junior Kyle Renfro.

Now in his second season as a full time starter since suffering a season-ending shoulder injury seven matches into his freshman year, Renfro is off to a phenomenal start to the 2012 season having recorded three straight shutouts in net to go along with a conference-best 21 saves. Since losing on opening weekend 3-1 to SIU-Edwardsville, the Hokies have now won their last three games over quality opponents in Richmond, Temple and St. Bonaventure. Renfro’s goalkeeping was instrumental in those wins, two of which were 1-0 victories, and it appears he is ready to assert himself as one of the ACC’s elite at the position.

Virginia Tech head coach Mike Brizendine told Soccer Wire on Tuesday that he and the rest of the Hokies’ coaching staff are excited for what is to come from Renfro in the future.

“We talked in the spring last year and told him the goalkeeper position was going to be competitive, and that he was going to have to work hard to keep his job,” Coach Brizendine said of Renfro. “Kyle has risen to the challenge, and he’s got our support as the No. 1.”

“With two years under my belt I feel I have the confidence, and I know what it takes to play at this level,” added Renfro.”I feel like this year is going to be a good year for us as a team, not just me individually. Getting three shutouts is awesome for going into the rest of the season.”

There were signs of a potentially bright future for Renfro last year when he led the ACC in saves during conference play with 53 and finished sixth in Division I men’s soccer in total saves. He shut out the eventual national champion in North Carolina, and had other bright spots but overall it was a rough season for the Hokies, and subsequently Renfro as well. Through four matches in 2012, he is already one shutout shy of his 2011 total and seems poised for many more. He credits his improvement from last year to the Hokies’ new goalkeepers coach, Chris Rich.

Rich, who joined Virginia Tech as a volunteer coach in the spring, has also coached at Florida International and Barry University where he was a four year starter and earned 28 wins in net during his career. The first thing Rich did with Renfro when they began working together last spring was find out where Renfro’s strengths and weaknesses were, so that he could figure out what he needed to work on over the summer.

Among the aspects they decided Renfro’s weaknesses were: distribution on goal kicks and sky volleys, being more accurate with his throws and kicks, communication with defenders and punching balls out of the air.

Once Renfro figured out what he needed to improve on, with the help of Coach Rich, he trained vigorously over the summer and entered camp sharper than he has ever been in his career.

The results have carried over into the regular season.

“He has come up big in all of our games to this point and we’re really pleased with his performance,” said Coach Brizendine. “When you’re getting shutouts, it’s hard to lose games.”

Virginia Tech’s next match will be a major test for Renfro and the Hokies, as they open conference play against No.1 UNC. Tech will try to extend its shutout streak to four as they take on the defending College Cup champs on the road at 7 p.m. in a game which will be webcast on ESPN3.

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