USF’s Rivera looking to leap back into action after 2023 injury

Shortstop has leaned on her coaches, teammates while rehabing

Alanah Rivera poses at the steps of a dugout while holding her glove in her right hand.
Alana Rivera grabs her glove before heading on the field for practice. The shortstop has worked hard to return from injury. (Photo: Aidan Cowling-McDonnell) 

TAMPA, Fla. – After missing the entire 2023 season, Alanah Rivera has kept a resilient and positive attitude during her journey back to playing shortstop with the University of South Florida.

The 22-year-old junior suffered a serious knee injury while training last summer that kept her out of the Bulls’ lineup. The support of her teammates and coaches has been vital for her return.

“Between coaches, teammates, and athletic trainers, all have been very supportive,” Rivera said. “They would cheer me up on the little things, and when I was finally able to walk and hit again, that was a big step.

“It was very rewarding. “

The fourth-year student underwent two surgeries in 2023 that involved taking cartilage out of her knee and replacing it with healthy cartilage that was developed in a lab.

It’s safe to say her rehab process was a long one.

Rivera would work almost every day while her team was on the practice field.

Even on weekends, she would do rehab with the teams’ personal trainer for over three hours trying to regain strength.

Alana Rivera attempts a bunt during practice.
Despite leading her team in hits to start the 2024 season, Rivera worked on her bunting skills during an afternoon practice.

Rivera believes it was beneficial to her growth as a player and person.

“My biggest developmental year was probably last year, just because I didn’t really have softball,” Rivera said, while sitting at the USF softball field. “I figured out who I was outside of softball and also took my own time to get mental reps which really helped.”

Rivera’s head coach Ken Eriksen is very thankful she’s back on the field. He feels Rivera is one of the smartest shortstops he’s seen in his 27 years at USF.

“Alanah is a really headsy type of ball player,” Eriksen said, in a pre-practice scrum. “She calls our defence out there at shortstop, so to have her back, not only for her junior year but next year, bodes well for this program.”

Eriksen recently recorded his 1100th career win on March 4 against Villanova.

Asked about her favourite moment as a member of the Bulls, this milestone by her coach came to mind.

“One of my favourite moments was in my freshman year when coach got his 1000th win, and then being there for his 1100th win,” Rivera said. “We dumped ice on him each time. 

“He tries to act like it’s nothing, but it’s a big deal. “

Rivera, who graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science last fall, sees herself attending dental school and earning her master’s once her softball career is finished.

While she’s still at USF, she is looking to lead her teammates to success in a positive and caring fashion.

“I’m a vocal leader and I also like leading by example, So I feel like encouraging each one of them is helpful,” Rivera said. “This is a game at the end of the day. I tell them to not get to upset. You have a long time to get better.”

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Posted: Mar 11 2024 8:48 pm
Filed under: Softball Sports