Softball is a sport Geneseo’s Alli Rivera has played her whole life. It is a game that took her to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and turned her career into more than what she expected.
“I had been playing softball my whole life. It was something I was used to doing and enjoyed doing, and I always knew I would play softball in college,” said Rivera.
“I was definitely one of the lucky ones. I started every game, except one, since my freshman year. I am an exception.”
Rivera decided to take her talents to UW-Green Bay because she liked the campus and the fact the school was smaller than most Division I schools, but the distance from home was a big challenge.
“It was very different, because I was use to having my family all around so it was a little difficult,” she said. “It did help that I played a sport because there were other girls who were in the same situation as I was.”
Rivera said her first game with the Phoenix reminded her a lot of her first game as a freshman on the varsity squad at Geneseo.
“I hit a home run my first at bat,” said Rivera, who was moved to first base, a position she had never played before. “I have always been a confident person, but after that the nerves went away, and I knew I would fit in.”
The transition from high school softball to college ball was a big jump for Rivera.
“The pitching is way different.?The speed of the game is a lot faster,” she said. “It was pretty tough at first making the adjustment at the plate, but, after the first week, I got into a groove.”
During her freshman year, Rivera started in 42 games at first base and racked up 293 total put outs with 19 assists for a .984 field percentage. She had a .238 batting average and tied for third on the team with five doubles and had 15 RBIs, the fourth best on the team. She smashed her first career home run at the Rebel Spring Games March 15 in a win over Wagner.
Her sophomore year, she led the team with an on-base percentage of .449, which set a Green Bay individual season record and ranked her second on the team for RBIs with 31. She started 46 games and was second on the team with five home runs and nine doubles with 42 total hits for a .304 batting average.
“I didn’t do as well as I had hoped my freshman year because it was a big transition,” said Rivera. “But my sophomore year, I got it all back and played really well.”
Rivera led the Phoenix in her junior year in 2011 with 45 hits, 33 RBIs and seven home runs. She was named a first team All-league selection and opened the season by going 3-for-3 with one RBI and two doubles.
“My junior year was my best year at Green Bay,” she said. “I was picked to the Horizon League Tournament Team and felt really comfortable.”
In her final season with the Phoenix, Rivera played in 48 games where she accumulated 136 at bats, 17 runs, 29 hits, four doubles, three home runs, 21 RBIs and 15 walks. She also was named College Sports Madness Horizon Preseason first team all-conference.
“My senior year didn’t go as well as I had hope,” said Rivera, who switched back to third base for her final season. “I felt burnt out.”
Rivera ended her career holding individual career program records in home runs with 16, RBIs with 100, walks with 59 and games played with 183. She also ranks seventh with 141 hits, fifth in at bats with 522 and seventh in doubles with 23.
Rivera said what she enjoyed the most about her time in Green Bay was learning about herself and how to interact with others.
“Being on a team can get pretty intense, but you learn to roll with the punches,” she said. “I would definitely go back and do it all over again.”
The biggest challenge for Rivera was adjusting to a different style of coaching.
“I was use to Coach (Bob) Pettit’s style where he pushed us and demanded a lot out of us, and I liked that,” said Rivera. “Going into college, I thought it would be the same, but the coaches are more laid back.?They held us more accountable for getting better.
“Coach Pettit was such a great coach and could be a college coach.?He knows what he is talking about and that was the biggest thing that helped me in college,” said Rivera of how her time with the Lady Leafs helped prepare her to play in college. “A lot of good players come from Geneseo and knowing who came before me pushed me to play harder and get better.”
Rivera said the advice she would give to any softball player looking to play at the next level would be to look at every type of school out there and not to just focus on the big schools.
“Playing college softball doesn’t happen on the field, but behind the scenes,” she said. “You have to work on your own to get where you want to be.”
With her brother, JJ, heading off to play football for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the fall, Rivera said her advice to him would be to be open to everything and not expect anything.
“They don’t owe you anything,” she said. “You have to work hard and a spot will open up. Also you need to keep up with your academics because it is easy to fall behind.”
When looking back over the last four years, Rivera says she has a mixture of emotions from happy to sad, but would do it all over again, however she is not sure if she would choose Green?Bay.
“I might choose somewhere closer to home because I really missed my family watching me play,” she said.
Though she said she never once thought about walking away early.
“I am not a quitter, and my family loves to watch me play so I knew I would stick with it. I love the sport so much,” said Rivera.
Rivera, who will graduate in May 2013, is a communications major with an emphasis in public relations and a Spanish major with a minor in international business. She will be studying in Spain in the fall.