Though IPFW senior Eddie Rivera is doing less statistically this season, his coach thinks he's actually a better player.
Rivera is on pace to hit fewer kills and take fewer swings than he did as a junior when he was a first-team all-conference selection. Part of that is by design for two reasons: The No. 14-ranked Volledyons want their star to be at his strongest at the end of the season, and his teammates have stepped up more so he doesn't have to.
"That's what has to happen for us, and Eddie is fine with that,'' IPFW coach Arnie Ball said. "I think he really should get some consideration for the All-America teams. He's really become a very fine all-around volleyball player.''
Rivera is one of the most talented players in the nation. Besides being a top hitter, he's excellent defensively at the net and in the back row. He's also a strong server.
And he's fine with being less in the spotlight.
"I love it,'' he said. "The reason is because we have such a balanced offense. I love it because I'm getting easier kills. I feel like it's easy because we have Andy (Sellan) on the other side, and we have our middles who are doing a great job. That's how a team wins.
"The guys were doing their jobs. The blockers know the ball is going to go to me, and they load up on me. That opens up to set the other guys and they are coming through.''
But there will be sometime this season when the Volleydons will need for Rivera to have a huge night so they can be competitive. He still has that capability and will be ready when necessary. Maybe it will happen tonight at No. 11 Lewis or Saturday at home against No. 1 Loyola.
"That is true, and I'm ready for it,'' Rivera said. "I'm totally fine. When we play Loyola if we keep playing with a balanced offense, we're going to be fine. There's no need for me to have 50 or 60 sets in a match. It's all for the team's sake.''
And if that hurts his All-America chances because he doesn't have spectacular individual numbers?
"If we get far enough, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I'm not being selfish right now. This is all a team sport. If it takes me to get less sets to open it up for the other guys, that's how you win games.''