Cows, wine and volleyball: Cal State system teams hoping for “hybrid” to make season happen

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Cal State volleyball 5/26/2020-Jocelyn Rodriguez-Fresno volleyball
Fresno State's Jocelyn Rodriguez

Who will tend to the cows and maintain the vineyards? 

More on that later when we get to Fresno State senior Jocelyn Rodriguez, who wants nothing to do with chickens.

But first the announcement by itself was sobering when California State University announced that most of its nearly 500,000 students would not attend classes on campus this fall.

In volleyball that system includes some nine Division I programs, including Long Beach State, Cal Poly, CSUN and Cal State Fullerton of the Big West; CSU Bakersfield, which is moving from the Western Athletic Conference to the Big West; Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose of the Mountain West; and Sacramento State of the Big Sky.

If any or all of those schools don’t have volleyball this season, and the other teams in their respective conferences do, well, it would be something else. Everyone, of course, is in a volleyball holding pattern, but …

Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer

Fourth-year Long Beach coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer was relieved last week to get a clarification on the edict. She spoke from her home while she took a break from her kids, 11 and 14, and left them with assistant coach/husband Matt Fuerbringer.

“The majority of our classes will be online, but there will be some they just can’t avoid,” she said, adding that labs, for example, and certain engineering and nursing courses, will have to taught in person.

”Everything is still in place for the fall,” she said. “They haven’t canceled anything. I can only speak for our school and I don’t know if that’s the same for all the Cal State schools and now the UC schools are making adjustments.”

Earlier this week the San Jose Mercury-News reported that the: University of California president Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that “every campus will be open and offering instruction” this fall despite the coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered most campus activity across the state.

“The question will be how much of that instruction is in-person versus how much is done remotely,” Napolitano added during remarks to the UC Board of Regents.”

The nine-school UC system includes Cal and UCLA in the Pac-12, and five more from the Big West in UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and new this year, UC San Diego.

Napolitano added that the system “will operate in some kind of hybrid mode.”

And that was the phrase used by third-year Fresno State coach Jonathan Winder. 

“Most universities are leaning that way with a hybrid,” Winder said. “For instance, most Cal State’s have things that are unique about their university, and one of the things that’s unique about our university is that we have a big agricultural component. 

“Who’s going to be producing the wine and taking care of the vineyards?”

He laughed, but it’s true. Fresno State’s department of Viticulture and Enology boasts on its website that “our graduates can be found in leading grape and wine positions around the nation and the world.”

More traditional are those Fresno students studying with an eye on being veterinarians.

“Who’s going to take care of the cows and the horses?” Winder asked. “Those are all student-run.

“You definitely can’t do a virtual animal science program.”

And that’s where libero Jocelyn Rodriguez comes in.

Rodriguez is from nearby Clovis, California. She was a standout at Clovis East High School, which also has agricultural programs.

“We had an ag farm at my school, but I only took one or two classes,” Rodriguez said. “I wasn’t in FFA or anything like that.

She started college volleyball at Division II San Francisco State (also part of the Cal State system).

“I took psychology and I said, ‘I hate taking these classes.’ Critical thinking is so not my thing,” she said with a laugh.

So she transferred  home to Fresno after her freshman year. 

“I really liked taking science courses in high school. I took anatomy and physiology and got really high grades and I thought I’m really good at learning about the human body and I love animals, my dogs are my children, and so I changed to pre-vet.”

The dogs, by the way, are a toy poodle, a Chihuahua and a German shepherd. 

And her first class in her major back at Fresno State was beef production, she said.

”I didn’t know it was going to be so hands on. There was a lecture where I would learn about cows and then there was a lab where I’d do hands-on stuff with the cows. I was giving them shots, I learned how to give the cows haircuts, which were pretty bad.

“And I gave them vaccines, checked them for ringworm, checking for diseases, which I never thought I would learn how to do.”

She liked being with cows so much that Rodriguez said she will likely specialize in large animals as a veterinarian.

“Mainly cows,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been hearing too many crazy stories about horses.”

And remember when we mentioned chickens?

“In the poultry lab is where I discovered that I hated chickens,” Rodriguez said. 

Trust us, she elaborated but we’re leaving that part out.

This fall she’s taking genetics, another intro to animal science, a plant course, and a “feeds and feeding course which I am not looking forward to,” she said. “You have to know about each type of feed that goes into each animal.”

All of which adds up to that Rodriguez is one of those students who simply has be on campus to pursue her major and participate in labs. 

She took the summer off but Rodriguez said hopes to volunteer at a ranch that works with cow embryo transfers, something you just don’t hear every day.

“She’s a great kid and has been a huge part of our team the last two years,” Winder said.

Last season Rodriguez averaged 2.17 digs per set and had 27 aces and was key in serve receive. 

“She’s from a huge family and has like 30-plus people at every single game sitting in the front row,” Winder said. “And she’s a really hard worker who has gotten better.”

Winder, by the way, spoke to us the day before his wife was going to deliver their fourth child. Joining Winder and Jaimie-Rose (who went to Clovis West) and siblings Hudson, Hayes and Sutton is sister Sloane, born May 15.

They’ll be ready to root on the Bulldogs this fall if and when.

“Our players are continuing on,” Winder said. “Everyone’s training in a stay-at-home way. We’re planning on a full season and preparing for the season to start in August. It might look a little different — everybody expects it to look a little different — but we still want to be ready and prepared to be at our best.”

The Winder family

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