SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Montana State senior Allyssa Rizzo was named the Big Sky Conference's libero of the year Wednesday at the league's postseason volleyball tournament banquet.
Rizzo, from of Crestwood, Illinois, established herself as the Big Sky's top defensive player by leading the league with an average of 5.96 digs per set. Her digs per set total ranked seventh in the nation as the Bobcats entered Big Sky tournament play against host Sacramento State on Thursday.
"Her award is the reflection of the respect she has from the conference," Bobcats coach Daniel Jones said in an MSU press release. "Usually, you have to scheme against offensive players or stop a big block, but to have a libero who truly changes the game is an incredible gift to have in a program."
As a freshman, Rizzo averaged 4.20 saves per outing, and saw her average move to 4.71 and 5.52 prior to her final campaign. Rizzo's current 620 digs is just five away from breaking her own MSU single-season mark of 624 set last season.
"A lot of the credit for her development goes to (Assistant Coach) Cole (Aiazzi)," Jones said. "He came in and helped her grow, and he helped her with the mindset of being a great libero.
"She's been a student of the game," Jones added. "She's studied film more than any player I've ever known, and she knows her opponents and when it's time, she goes out and executes the plan at a high level."
Rizzo became just the third player in Big Sky Conference history to go over the 2,000-dig plateau as the Bobcats swept Idaho in three sets on Nov. 9. Her current 2,088 career digs shattered the old Bobcat mark of 1,720 set by Kandice Kelly from 2003-06.
"To be a great libero you must be a humble, servant leader," Jones said. "You're not the star, you don't get to score the points, but you need to have a blue-collar work ethic and you've got to be willing to serve your teammates. It's about making sacrifices for your teammates time-and-time again."