October 18, 2021 – By NJP
The Jenna Rogers era was the most successful time in Rutherford high school volleyball history. Rogers, an amazing athlete and three sport player went on to University of Nebraska for track and field, but she left her mark on the program winning NJ Player of the Year and putting up almost 1,500 kills in her high school career. During her last three years playing varsity, the Bulldogs were 86-8 and a major force on the high school volleyball landscape.
Since Rogers graduation, Rutherford was waiting for the next dominant player to arrive to drive their success as in previous years. This Spring, the Bulldogs went 6-6, but had several players who looked like they could emerge and breakout. Jocelyn Rodriguez has been that player this season and Rutherford has returned as a force and are 18-1 as we head toward the state playoff cutoff date.
Rodriguez has been brilliant in her senior year. She led the Bulldogs in kills and digs in the Spring but has turned up the heat this Fall. She already has 140 kills on the season and has added 168 digs and 28 aces. Her all-star performances led the team to win their first 15 games and the Bulldogs appear to be back on track as a major player in the NJIC.
Like Rogers, Rodriguez has many options for college. She has also been a dominant basketball player for Rutherford but unlike Rogers, she does plan to pursue volleyball in her college plans. But for the next few weeks, as she winds down her high school career, she is driven to bring the Rutherford program to the highest level before she departs. And we see some potential firework coming from the Meadowlands area before the season is over.
Here is our interview with Ms. Rodriguez…
How are you, Jocelyn? Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club. Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Jocelyn Rodriguez and I live in Rutherford, New Jersey. I attend Rutherford High School as a senior in the class of 2022. Although I don’t have a lot of family members, I have an amazing support system consisting of my mom, my dad, my sister, and a group of very close friends.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball since my freshman year of high school. I never really considered playing volleyball growing up because it was never a thought in my head. Though once freshman year came around, I knew I wanted to take an opportunity to learn a new sport, one that I had never played before. The constant scoring and fast pace of the game made me realize that this was something I had been looking for.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What is your favorite position to play?
I am 5’9 with a vertical of 19’0. I am an all-around player, playing 5 out of the 6 serve receive positions. My favorite position is definitely being an outside hitter because of how you can go off the court to get all the power you need to hit it deep, short, and especially corner. The outside hitter has always been something I’ve known I could excel at, and I knew I had to prove it when I finally got the opportunity to play it my junior year. In my only short two seasons of playing, I’ve grown to love it more than any other position I’ve played.
Tell us about your Bulldog teammates. Who else has been this year’s standout players during this season?
Each and every one of my Bulldog teammates has made a huge impact both on and off the court. I can’t say that anyone is a standout player, including myself, because in all honesty, we all play a role on this team that contributes to our overall success. I do want to give credit to two girls though who have not only pushed me but have taken control of the team’s spirit and energy. Abby Moller, a sophomore, has brought her energy to levels that bring the game to be more than just a game. Leah Barna, a junior, is the most hardworking and coachable player you will ever meet. Both of their talent, ambition, and passion for the game have brought our team to huge wins without even having to touch a volleyball.
You are an amazing athlete, excelling in three different sports (volleyball, softball, basketball). Which sport is your favorite?
My whole life was always surrounded and committed to playing basketball. I spent years on AAU, traveled the country, dedicated most of my time training, and experienced some of the biggest opportunities of my life while doing so. I can’t say that basketball isn’t my favorite sport because it’s something that means a lot to me, to my family, and to those that I, unfortunately, have lost in my life. But volleyball is definitely up there. The past four years had its uncertainties, but I am proud to say that I will be finishing my volleyball career at RHS with a better version of myself and a desire to reach more than I have already accomplished.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing in college? (If so, which ones are you looking at? What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
I haven’t really put myself out there, so I haven’t received any offers. Sports have always led me to meet new people and create some of my favorite memories to date so if the opportunity arises, I will certainly consider it. In college, I hope to study exercise science or health sciences to further my career path in physical therapy.
You have led the team in kills and digs for the past two seasons. Do you like the role and responsibility of being a “go-to” player on the court?
Leading the team in kills and digs for the past two seasons has been a huge accomplishment in my athletic career. Even though the responsibilities can sometimes be overwhelming, I’ve learned in a short amount of time that I have that role for a reason. Being the go-to player is a title that gives me a reason to always improve and always test myself. When other teams scout you and your team it’s a way to always change it up, to keep it unexpected. I never thought that as a senior I would be in the position that I am now with so many successes from both myself and my teammates.
Rutherford has had a truly amazing season thus far with just 1 loss in 16 games played. Was Leonia much better than you originally anticipated?
We won against Leonia both in a tournament and in an independent game earlier in the season. I, as well as my coach and teammates, understood that they were going to put their all into defeating us. Leonia was not much better than I originally expected because they hadn’t changed any of their offense or defense lineups to shake us. With that being said, it may have ended our record, but it surely sparked a motivation amongst us to want to achieve more than what we’ve accomplished in less of a time.
Was Jenna Rogers an influence on your volleyball career?
Jenna Rogers is an amazing athlete who stood out to anyone who played against her. I never really played with her on the court but once she and the seniors left there was always a question on what would happen to the program without them. She influenced me in a way that wanted me to make the team something special like she did.
Tell us about your team’s head coach Helen Antzoulides?
Coach A has been my coach since sophomore year, and I’ve never been given more opportunities then I have when she is looking over me. Coach A contributed to the frequent question that I always asked myself, “Who am I?” Coming into senior year, I understood responsibilities and leadership was expected of me, but I had quite frankly no clue at all what that meant. In all honesty, I struggled to be a good teammate while being a good athlete. Through it all, Coach A taught me more than just within the lines of a volleyball court; she taught me about character development and the idea that maturity is something that comes with both positive and negative encounters.
Do you think attitude is a factor in winning?
Attitude will always have a factor in winning no matter how skillful a team is. One of the things that I’ve learned from my team is that our spirit and energy is what makes us win games. The way we pick each other up and cheer when one of us makes an amazing play is unmatched and is something I wish I could experience for the rest of my life. To always have a positive energy shows your character. Without it, you won’t ever perform to your greatest potential.
Who inspired you as a young athlete?
I’d have to say my father inspired me as a young athlete. Whether it was dedicating his time to driving me around, traveling the country, or sitting in the stands at every game, he always had a passion to see me succeed. My father will always inspire me to pursue everything with heart and ambition and always be a part of something greater than myself. His sacrifices have made me the person I am today, and I will forever be grateful for that.