Rivera’s career comes full circle to achieve dreams

By Aaron Graff, @Aarongraff_DE

There is no place like home.

Former Saluki volleyball player Alex Rivera graduated in December and is playing professionally with Las Gigantes de Carolina in her homeland of Puerto Rico.

“It was always a dream to grow up and have that experience,” Rivera said.

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Rivera is living with her family in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. She said her parents were in the stands for her most important matches in college and they support her even more now.

“They haven’t missed one game,” she said. “It’s the best gift they can give to their daughter.”

Rivera’s mother, Lili Rojas also played professionally in Puerto Rico.

“Volleyball is part of her family,” SIU coach Justin Ingram said. “She was probably the baby that grew up in the ball cart because her mom was a 20-year professional herself for the Puerto Rican national team.”

Rivera is the first player to play professionally after their Saluki career in Ingram’s time at SIU.

“She’s worked really hard her entire life to be as great as she can be,” Ingram said. “The reward is her talent is catching up to the hard work she’s putting in.”

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Saluki sophomore setter Hannah Kaminsky said Rivera has a the potential to play for many years.

“Probably for quite some time. Until she has kids probably,” Kaminsky said.

Rivera said everyone in the league has been playing their entire lives, and there are no bad teams.

Her team is ranked fifth of seven, but has the same record as the third and fourth ranked teams. The only difference is the number of individual sets won.

The team made the semifinals last season and finished third, with Rivera as the only rookie on the team.

Ingram said every player has qualities that will be missed, and Rivera was tremendous in reception. This allowed hitters to be more successful.

He said he is unsure of how Rivera will be replaced; whether it be a current player stepping up, or a recruit coming in.

Rivera said she still keeps in touch with her teammates and coaches at SIU regularly.

“At SIU I was able to meet people who are going to be a lifetime friendship,” Rivera said.

She said becoming a professional is something she has wanted to do for as long as she can remember. Rivera said her parents have supported all of her decisions and they are just as happy to see her succeed, as she is to live her dream.

Aaron Graff can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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