With 13 excellent digs and 17 excellent receptions in UST’s loss to UP, one could be deceived into thinking that Rica Rivera has been playing as the team’s defensive ace for a long time.
But the truth of the matter is, the spiker-turned-libero only knew about the switch-up 3 days before the big game against the Lady Maroons.
“Nung tuneup game namin last Thursday sa Army dun ko lang nalaman na magli-libero ako,” she told FOX Sports.
Already down 0-2 in a scrimmage against the veteran club team, UST’s coaching staff made a spur of the moment decision which allowed them to discover a diamond in the rough in Rivera.
“Actually, talo na po kami ng 2 sets. Sabi ni coach Ian (Fernandez), ‘Rica, mag libero ka.’” she shared. “Medyo surprising din kasi alam ko kailangang kailangan talaga ng 1st ball receive sa amin. On-the-spot, 3rd set, libero tapos nanalo kami.”
Though the España squad lost and dropped to a 2-4 record, the team had a positive takeaway, finally solving the reception issues that has hounded them since time immemorial.
Looking at the bright side of things, Rivera is pleased at how she was able to contribute to UST’s performance even if it meant taking on a non-scoring role.
“I’m happy kasi naka-contribute ako sa team. Hindi basta happy na nalagay ako sa starters. Happy ako kasi natulungan ko ‘yung main na butas ng team,” shared the Cebuana. “Sabi ni coach, ‘I guess nabigyan na natin ng tuldok ‘yung problema, na-solusyunan na.’”
On head coach Kung Fu Reyes’s advice on how to be at the helm of the defensive side of things, she adds, “Sabi sa akin yakapin ko daw at embrace the role na binigay sa akin.”
With this development, rookie Mia Dizon moved back to her spiking position while veteran Gi Reyes, at least in the game against UP, was relegated to the bench.
UST is set to face on Wednesday the streaking La Salle squad, the league’s best in terms of serving.
But for Rivera, she is not one to crumble under pressure all thanks to her experience as a beach volleyball champion.
“Hindi ko pine-pressure sarili ko kasi nilagay ko sarili ko sa beach volley na kailangan receive talaga,” she said. “1st ball kailangan matibay kaya sinipagan ko talaga kasi ‘yun lang naman talaga ang pwede ko ma-contribute as a libero.”
“Malaking tulong ‘yung paglalaro ko sa beach dito sa new role ko kasi na-mix na lahat nung mga emotions like pressured game, walang ace at walang tapon na bola,” added Rivera.
Asked if she now prefers saving the ball over hammering it, she closed by saying, “Kung ano ibibigay sa akin, yayakapin ko lang.” — By Mac Dionisio