Rodriguez endures tough senior season, signs with LSU

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant volleyball standout Toni Rodriguez signs with LSU alongside her parents. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

It wasn't quite the senior year Toni Rodriguez envisioned, but the end result is still pretty sweet.

Last Monday, one of the parish's best athletes was joined by her friends, family and coaches as she took the next step in her athletic career and officially signed her letter of intent to play volleyball at LSU.

"It was a banner year for St. Amant athletics and girl's athletics in particular when you consider that all of our major girl's sports won district championships," St. Amant head football coach and athletic director David Oliver said. "When you look at those programs, Toni Rodriguez's fingerprints are all over them with volleyball, basketball and she has school records for track. Besides what she does on the field, you're talking about a top-notch student and a top-notch person."

Rodriguez's accomplishments have been far and wide over the span of her high school career.

Last year, it was the perfect storm.

She was All-Metro and all-district MVP in volleyball as she compiled 627 kills, 234 digs and 97 blocks on her way to leading the Lady Gator volleyball team to its highest playoff seeding in school history at No. 2.

From there, Rodriguez went on to average 10 points a game in basketball before having her season cut short with a knee injury.

But she was back on her feet in time for the track season. It was then that she set school records in both the high-jump and the javelin.

She won district titles in both events and finished third in both at the state meet last year.

As a result of her amazingly versatile junior season, Rodriguez was named female Athlete of the Year. She was the first St. Amant athlete to earn such a distinction since 1985.

"She's a very special athlete and even more specific to volleyball, she is very special," Lady Gator head volleyball coach Allison Leake said. "We're really excited to send Toni off to the next level because I know that this season was really hard for her."

Rodriguez committed to Tennessee last summer, and she headed into her senior season hoping to lead St. Amant to a volleyball state title, but the run ended just as quickly as it began.

She tore her ACL in the first match of the season against Mount Carmel--causing her to miss her senior seasons in both volleyball and basketball.

With such a significant setback, Tennessee pulled their scholarship offer, but it never stopped her drive.

She rehabbed and was back in time for the track season. She won yet another district title in the javelin and finished third once again at state.

"I know that she's really anxious to get back on the court, and her teammates and I are very anxious to see her back on the court with her drive, her athletic ability and her competitiveness," Leake said. "She's extremely competitive, and her friends can attest to that."

Rodriguez is now excited to play at LSU, but her journey to play volleyball in the SEC almost never happened.

At her signing, Leake shared a story about how originally, Rodriguez didn't even try out for volleyball.

It wasn't until Leake saw the 6-footer in the weight room that she knew she had to convince her come out and join the club. The rest is history.

"She came out, and she caught on. It's the fastest I've ever seen a kid catch on to a sport. It's just insane how much she was born to play volleyball," Leake said. "It's very unusual; it's not typical. She catches on to things so quickly; it just doesn't happen in a lot of sports."

Rodriguez is truly a special athlete, but she has continued to stay humble. At her signing, she made sure to thank everyone that has helped her over the years.

"I would like to thank my mom and dad for always supporting me and for my friends and family for coming out and cheering me on throughout my volleyball career," Rodriguez said. "I want to thank all of my coaches and all of my teammates for pushing me to be the best."

Now that her leg continues to get stronger, she's ready to get back on the court at LSU.

She said, "I want to thank Coach (Scott) Arceneaux and all of my doctors for helping me with my rehab, and I'm super excited to go to LSU and play volleyball."