Rica Rivera is determined to make her last year for UST count

Suffice it to say, 2018 has been a rough year for UST’s Rica Jane Rivera.

Sustaining a knee injury not even half-way through the UAAP Season 80 Women’s Volleyball tournament, Rivera’s absence was one of the culprits in the Tigresses’ seventh place finish—their worst in 16 years.

The same injury prevented the libero from playing for the Sta. Lucia Realtors in the 2018 PSL Invitationals. All these, she says, eventually took a toll on her overall health.

“Sobrang hirap for me kasi mentally and emotionally exhausted na ako. ‘Yung katawan ko rin, hindi siya stable,” Rivera admitted about the difficult stretch.

Talking about making the most out of the idle time, she adds: “‘Yung binigay sakin na time ni Coach George (Pascua) na i-sit out ako for one conference, nakatulong siya sakin para makapagpahinga. Ginamit ko rin ‘yung time na makapag-isip-isip din tungkol sa plans ko.”

Eventually, as the Realtors struggled in the 2018 PSL All-Filipino Conference, Pascua gambled on the recovering Rivera, allowing the Cebuana to see limited action as a sub for DM Demontaño.

While this did not yield good results with Sta. Lucia exiting the tournament without a single win, it served as a good warm-up for Rivera before rejoining the UST crew late last year.

However, a new type of challenge was awaiting her in España.

On promising rookie liberos Janel Delerio and Riza Martin, Rivera shares: “Na-challenge ako sa bata kasi magagaling.”

“Fifth (playing year) ko na. Kailangan ko ilaban ‘yung sarili ko. I had to be selfish din sa side ko kasi kailangan ko din ma-redeem ‘yung sarili ko not because I like spotlight. Gusto ko lang ipakita sa sarili ko and sa mga tao na kaya ko talaga,” she added.

And fight, she did.

From gaining back her fighting form to polishing her skills, from the Baguio training camp to the tuneup matches in Thailand, Rivera showed that at least in reception and leadership, she was still UST’s best bet in the libero position.

“It’s a healthy competition for us. Ang ginawa ko nag-guide ako sa kanila kasi pag wala na ako, sila na ‘yung susunod sa akin,” said the one-time UAAP Beach Volleyball champion. “Hindi naman ako nagkaroon ng bad feelings towards them. Kung sinuman ang mapasok, guide ko pa rin sila.”

Rivera, and her former beach volleyball partner Cherry Ann Rondina, will start their final year for the UST Golden Tigresses when they face the Adamson Lady Falcons on February 17 at the Mall of Asia Arena.