Sports, Women's Sports, Women's Volleyball

Former women’s volleyball coach speaks on firing: ‘We were not met with or given a warning from anyone’

While Long Beach State’s women’s volleyball was taking a third consecutive Big West Conference loss on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Walter Pyramid, Executive Director of Athletics Andy Fee was on a road trip with the university baseball team in Phoenix, Arizona.

“I was watching the game on ESPN+,” Fee said. “It said to me we were in a very bad place. So the options are to continue forward and hope that things get better. Or make a change.”

That was when Fee realized that Joy McKenzie-Fuerbringer, a fifth-year head coach in the final season of her contract, was no longer bringing him and the program any success.

Just two days later and with ten games left in the season, McKenzie-Fuerbringer, who led LBSU to a national title as a player and captain in 1993, was relieved of her duties, effective immediately, with assistant coach Sabrina Hernandez taking the role of interim head coach.

McKenzie-Fuerbringer’s husband and assistant coach, Matt Fuerbringer, was also let go.

“We were not met with, or given a warning from anyone from administration,” McKenzie-Fuerbringer said. “We are very disappointed with the decision to not let us finish the season with the team and the way this was handled.”

McKenzie-Fuerbringer’s tenure ended with a 27-30 Big West record and no conference titles or NCAA tournament appearances.

With five national championships, 27 NCAA appearances, and 13 Big West titles in LBSU’s history, Fee felt the student-athletes and fans deserved more on the court.

With a 3-7 Big West Conference record halfway through the regular season, Fee believed that the tradition and legacy were at stake. During McKenzie-Fuerbringer’s final three-game losing streak, LBSU lost to fourth-placed UC Irvine and last-placed UC Riverside, who was winless prior to defeating LBSU, after going ahead 2-1 after three sets in both games.

In the game against the Aggies, LBSU was swept 3-0 and mustered a meager .125 attacking percentage while committing 19 errors, which put the team in eighth place. This would end up being McKenzie-Fuerbringer’s last game as head coach.

“To struggle as we have had over the last few weeks,” Fee said. “Traditionally we don’t see ourselves in the middle or the bottom of our conference. We see ourselves at the top competing for championships.”

Fee added that McKenzie-Fuerbringer’s successes during her time at the helm were in the classroom where her athletes had a 100% graduation rate through the 2019-20 season, according to the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate data.

“I am proud of the progress and culture that we built together with our team and staff at Long Beach,” McKenzie-Fuerbringer said. “Coming off of a tough a COVID year and facing adversity as a team, we would have liked to finish the season. I am very grateful for the opportunity to lead the team and I am very proud of our student-athletes and their commitment, dedication and hard work.”

Fee is now on a mission to find the right person who will bring back the winning tradition that is expected of LBSU’s women’s volleyball.

The university’s sports general manager refused to give names or a timeline for the decision on who will be appointed as the next head coach, but he did mention coaches from the PAC 12, Mountain West and Big-12 conferences have inquired about the position.

“I’m expecting an extremely competitive pool,” Fee said. “There’s a lot of people that want to talk to me and our university about this program. People see this as the type of place that you can win, and that’s the type of person that I want to see. Someone that wants to win championships in the classroom, that we graduate our players but we also win on the court.”

Attempts were made to reach out to current players and interim coach Hernandez but Associate Athletic Communications Director Lindy Zamora said they were not available to comment on any coaching decisions.

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