Alyssa Rio did it all defensively in 2010. Turns out that Rio was the best at her job.
The Collegiate Volleyball Update named Rio the 2010 Libero of the Year on Monday. The award is given to the top defender in the country.
"I never expect to get awards, especially as a libero," Rio said. "The libero is the forgotten position. The hitters and setters normally get the awards, not the libero."
The senior libero ranked first in the Mid-American Conference with 5.86 digs per set and second nationally.
CVU uses a formula to place a value on defensive efficiency to rate every libero in the country. The formula not only took into account digs per set but also attacks received and service reception errors.
"Alyssa is the complete package," coach Steve Shondell said. "She can do it all in the back court. She can pass, receive and dig. But, she's more than that. She's a spirit leader.
"There is no libero in the country that plays with more passion for the game than Alyssa."
Among the finalists that Rio surpassed for the award were national digs-per-set leader Taylor Root of Valparaiso, Tracey Lam from Rice, Kim Maroon of Villanova and Alana Wittenburg from Drake.
"I'm still surprised," Rio said. "I watched a lot of good liberos in the NCAA Tournament. I never would have guessed I would have beaten any of them out."
Rio finished the season with 639 digs, the fourth-best single season effort in Ball State history.
In a defining moment, Rio collected a career-high 44 digs in a win over conference rival Western Michigan. Rio was named the CVU National Player of the Week after her career night against the Broncos.
"This is a great way to end my career," she said. "This is big for me, but even bigger for Ball State. This will help to make Ball State more respected and make others think twice about us."
Rio is just the second Cardinal to win the award. Amanda McCormick was honored as the top libero in the nation in 2006.
Rio became only the second player in the program's history and the eighth in MAC history to record more than 2,000 career digs. She finished her career with 2,089 digs and 49 matches with 20-or-more digs.
"This has to be one of the best stories in the country," Shondell said. "Alyssa wasn't on any preseason lists. She came out of nowhere to win this award. It's a great example of how someone can reach their full potential."
Rio had never been named to an all-conference team before this year despite her second-best career digs-per-set average in school history.
"You can't replace a national player of the year award winner like Alyssa," Shondell said. "We're lucky she'll be around to have a positive impact on the team in a coaching role."