STORRS, Conn. – The only international player on the University of Connecticut volleyball team’s roster, senior Rebecca Rivera is one of four players in her final season with the Huskies – and looking to make 2016 the best one yet.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Rivera has helped lead the Huskies to a 9-2 start to the season. Most recently, UConn won two of three matches at the West Point Invitational, beating Army and St. John’s. Rivera averaged 25.3 assists per match.
Rivera transferred to UConn following her freshman season at Albany, transitioning right into a starting role with the Huskies as a sophomore. She played in 60 matches combined between 2014 and 2015, serving as the team’s primary setter.
The sport is the same, but Rivera’s feelings were very different when UConn started its 2016 campaign with a 3-1 win over Syracuse on Aug. 26. Chalk it up to senior experience, one could say.
“My approach is not really different as a senior player than as a freshman player,” said Rivera. “The only difference is I’m not nervous coming into the game like I was as a freshman; I have a sense of urgency and excitement for this season.”
During the summer, Rivera also helped some of her former club coaches when it came to instructing younger athletes in the sport of beach volleyball – as could have been seen in the Rio Olympics back in August.
It was a standard summer for Rivera, who trained back home in Canada and spent time with her family and friends throughout June and July. Come early August, she was back on campus with the team and preparing for her senior season.
“I think our team has great potential this year. We lost two great players (Erika Thomas and Immanuella Anagu) to graduation, but I believe we will rally and surprise a lot of teams,” said Rivera prior to the start of the season.
Thus far, Rivera’s thoughts have been proven accurate with UConn’s stellar play throughout the non-conference schedule. The senior setter believes, however, that only a strong finish can properly complement a solid beginning.
“Our team needs to work on finishing strong, from the start to the end,” said Rivera. “We are a very competitive team and we need to have a strong mentality to focus on just one point at a time.”
UConn returns the vast majority of the 2015 roster, minus Thomas and Anagu. However, the addition of freshmen Genna Florig and Avery Spaziani helps to keep class balance on the 2016 roster and build for the future.
“Genna gives us a huge block on defense and a dangerously quick arm swing for our offense,” said Rivera. “Avery provides our back row defense with great digs and efficient serve receive passes…both have been great additions due to their passion for the sport and the team.”
After graduation, Rivera would like to play professionally for one or two seasons; location to be determined, but she has made that her goal. If she doesn't play professionally, she will likely go back to school for her Master’s. She is an anthropology major.
UConn’s leader in assists for the past two seasons, Rivera and the Huskies look to take the next step for the program in 2016.