Sports, Women's Sports

McKienzie-Fuerbringer must prove herself in sophomore season

When women’s volleyball head coach and legend Brian Gimmillaro announced his retirement two seasons ago, many wondered what was next for the program.

Cue Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer, a protégé of Gimmillaro’s, an experienced assistant coach and Athletic Director Andy Fee’s second hire. After years of groundbreaking performances under Gimmillaro, both Fee and McKienzie-Fuerbringer had rising expectations.

However, the laws of sports are similar to the laws of gravity, and what goes up must come down. The first season under McKienzie-Fuerbringer was a disappointment, filled with frustrating losing streaks and an injury-plagued team.

She may have gotten a pass for last year since she was coaching a group she hadn’t recruited herself, but with seven new players this season, including a promising senior transfer, it is the time for McKienzie-Fuerbringer to prove herself.

The team got off to a better start this year, but even with a mostly new roster, it’s still showing the same inconsistencies from last season. Sure, there’s no nine-game losing streak, but just eight games in and the team is showing the same pattern of coming out strong the first and second set then quickly unravelling, unable to respond to changes from its opponents.

Even in winning games such as the five-set match against Texas Tech, the players display moments of cohesive play that are often followed by amateur mistakes that end up costing them unnecessary extra sets.

No one is expecting McKienzie-Fuerbringer to bring the team back to the NCAA championship this season, but being competitive in the Big West would be good enough. In order to do that, some major changes need to take place quickly.

The main adjustment has to be with the lineup. Long Beach has seven outside hitters on its roster, yet junior libero Hailey Harward has been playing the outside hitter position this season.

Harward led the team in digs last season at the libero position at 3.65 per set and was named to the All-Big West First Team. With such a strong defensive skill set, there’s no reason for Harward to be one of seven outside hitters.

Another flaw in the outside hitter rotation is the limitation of minutes for senior Megan Kruidhof. She led the team with 3.18 kills per set last season, yet has received some of the least minutes of the outside hitters.

McKienzie-Fuerbringer might be trying to break in the freshman outside hitters first, but the young players can learn to handle high pressure situations from Kruidhof, just as freshman libero Carly Hill can learn from Harward’s experience. They’re certainly not gaining any in-game help from the ever so stoic coaching technique of McKienzie-Fuerbringer. She doesn’t coach like her reputation is on the line, and the apathetic, Phil Jackson-esque look only works if the team is winning.

The losses might sting a little less for fans if McKienzie-Fuerbringer looked more upset than them.

Long Beach is currently at a .500 record and has some tough matches coming up, beginning with UCLA next Thursday. If McKienzie-Fuerbringer is able to pull off some upsets in the coming weeks, she has the perfect opportunity to show the program what she’s made of.


  1. Avatar

    Well that was a quite a piece of creative writing. Do you bother checking any stats or doing any research at all? I was going to refute piece by piece how inaccurate this article was and noticed that you are the managing editor. How disappointing for journalism. Then I went on to read your piece on equating milk with white supremacy and I was able to give your article the value it deserved. Btw, the All-Conference libero was from Hawaii.

  2. Avatar

    First off, let me say that Hailey Harward is as gifted of an athlete as you will find on any team anywhere in the country and she is playing slightly out of position to put her team in the best position possible to win games . As to last year, she earned all conference awards as an outside hitter and that was the significant factor in a strong second-half in conference. As to Carly Hill playing Libero you should really do your homework because if you did you would see that she is leading the conference in the digs and is currently in the top 25 in the nation in that category. With a 6-4 record with four true freshman seing considerable play time I would say the future is looking pretty bright .

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