CERRITOS - In the first of a new series, we will be looking back at former Cerritos College athletes and what they're up to these days. Our first is former volleyball player Mandy (Arnold) Rodriguez. From 1996-97, Rodriguez was the Falcons setter and was a member of a South Coast Conference championship team, while she earned all-conference recognition both seasons. She went on to transfer to Whittier College before getting into coaching and returned home to serve as the head coach for the Ventura College volleyball team for eight seasons (2005-11). In those eight years, Rodriguez posted a 72-75 (.490) record, which included winning the Western State Conference championship in her first season.
While with the Falcons, she ranked sixth in single-season assists in 1996 with 926, and while at Whittier, set their single-season record (since broken) with 1.040 assists as a senior. Her 1,904 career assists is still a school record. She was also effective at the net and concluded her Poets career with 214 kills. Additionally, she was voted their captain and Most Valuable Player, while earning All-SCIAC honors for two seasons. Even while playing, Rodriguez was an assistant coach on the men's club volleyball team her junior year and served as their head coach as a senior. After her playing career, Rodriguez, who earned a Bachelor's degree in Child Development and Master's in Education, was awarded a fellowship at Whittier College and served as a member of the women's team coaching staff. Rodriguez is currently teaching fifth grade at a local elementary school.
What made you decide to attend Cerritos College after attending high school in Ventura?
My family is originally from Bellflower and Downey and may dad attended Cerritos before Long Beach State. He had followed the volleyball program and remembered being in Jeanine's (head coach Jeanine Prinde) class years earlier. It was full circle getting to play for Jeanine and be part of a program with such a rich history in the area my parents had grown up.
What was it about Cerritos that drew you to the school?
I wanted to be a part of a program that was run as if it were a Division I program, one that treated their athletes as if they were very important and special.
What do you remember most about your time as a volleyball player and as a student-athlete?
My best volleyball memories are from Cerritos and being a part of the volleyball program. My best friend today (Lisa (Valenzuela) Fierro) was my middle blocker. I made wonderful friends and got to be a part of a strong program with a rich history. I was able to play at a very high level and make the best great memories.
Did you know you were on the last team to win a conference championship?
WOW! Even though that makes me sad, I am so proud of what we accomplished while I was there and what had already been built and accomplished before me. I hope they are able to find a way back to a championship soon.
After completing your two seasons at Cerritos, you transferred to Whittier College? What was it about Whittier that made you decide to transfer there?
It wasn't far from where I was comfortable being the previous two years. I also knew that I wanted to be a teacher and they had a very good program. Since I had played at a high level the previous two years I was ok knowing I was going to a smaller school that focused more on academics. Attending Cerritos opened the door up for me to attend Whittier financially.
What do you remember about your time at Whittier College?
The transition to Whittier was brutal for me. Any transition might have been, because I was so happy while at Cerritos. The friends I made and the volleyball was such a competitive and rewarding experience which made the transition harder.
Where did you start your coaching career? Can you break down the places and years you coached volleyball?
I started coaching as a senior in high school. I have coach many places and many different levels over the years. I coached in the local middle school program. My dad ran Channel Islands Volleyball Club for many many years, so I also coached there early on. While away from home at school, I coached for Huntington Beach Volleyball Club and at La Serna High School. After graduating from Whittier I stayed on as the volleyball grad fellow and assistant coached the women's team and coached the men's club team. I made my way back to my roots and starting coaching at Channel Islands again. After having my daughters I was hired on as the Ventura College women's coach and coached there for eight seasons, while also coaching club for CIVBC. I have coached for Los Angeles Volleyball Club starting a developmental program locally when my daughters started playing. Most recently, I have coached in the developmental program for RISE VBC.
During your time coaching at Ventura, did you face Cerritos? If so, do you remember how your teams did?
Yes, I think once in preseason. I think we lost. However, I beat my former assistant coach from Cerritos (Nancy Welliver) knocking her Cypress team out of the first round of playoffs the season my team finished 18-2.
You and your husband Leo have twin daughters, Adrianna and Isabella (pictured, below). Was it important to you for them to play volleyball?
I actually tried to get them to do things other than volleyball. I wanted them to play something I knew less about and wouldn't be so "involved" in but could just sit back and watch through a parent's eyes. They grew up as gym rats, in the VC gym as babies while I was coaching. Isabella actually got hit in the mouth with a ball and lost her first tooth there. It was VERY early on that Isabella insisted on playing and I signed her up for a local youth program. About five minutes in, they asked for volunteers to coach and I was like, "Here we go". I couldn't let her learn things wrong that I would have to fix and correct later, sooooo we were off on our first mother/daughter coaching experience. After that my dad, who ran his club, said if they want to play let's put it together. He created the first local mini program that many have now modeled theirs after. We had a bunch seven and eight-year-olds out there learning how to play with the low nets and light balls.
Do they know about your volleyball playing days?
Yes, they do. Oh yes, they hear lots of stories from me and Auntie Lisa, Lisa Fierro. I have coached them most of their lives so they hear lots of stories about my playing days. They also hear all about my playing strengths and weaknesses as a player so they can learn from them. They are much better athletes than I was who work very hard. They haven't had a choice but to always work their hardest and do their best with me as their coach.
How did you and Leo meet? How long have you guys been married?
Leo and I met in high school when we were sophomores and I was 16. He has always been extremely supportive of my volleyball career, whether playing or coaching. He has made many sacrifices to support me throughout my volleyball days. We have been married for 20 years.
Your daughters have played tournaments at Cerritos College. What was it like for you the first time you went onto the gym to see them play?
It was an awesome experience and I always love seeing them play in a place that holds so many great memories for me. I was very proud telling them about my time there and what we had accomplished.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies? Interests?
I LOVE watching my girls play club and high school volleyball and club soccer. Those are my favorite things to do. During this pandemic, we have actually spent a lot of time as a family setting up the grass net at the park and playing doubles, which has been a lot of fun.
How old are the twins now and what school are they attending?
They're 16 years old and going to Foothill Technology High School. They're playing volleyball, as well as club soccer and volleyball.
(John Van Gaston, Cerritos College Athletics)