Two years ago, then-women’s lacrosse Head Coach Karen Hollands needed to name an isolation play that would showcase Tracy Rivas — the Bombers’ newest freshman attacker.
Hollands settled on “mitochondria,” a nickname Rivas had acquired from her days playing field hockey and lacrosse at East Meadow High School on Long Island, N.Y. Since Hollands named the play, Rivas has written the word on her forearm before each game as a reminder to never let her endless energy subside.
“Mitochondria is a powerful word for me,” Rivas said. “Whenever I’m on the field I like to be the kind of person to show enthusiasm and passion.”
Mitochondria are the organelles that produce energy in a cell. Senior attack Nicole Borisenok said the scientific word applies to Rivas because of her vigor on the field.
“Her physical appearance might be misleading because she is just this little girl,” Borisenok said. “But with her efforts and her competitiveness she really is a powerhouse.”
Standing at 5-foot-1, Rivas is the shortest player on the team. But her speed and strength have led her to be the Bombers’ top offensive threat with 26 goals and 16 assists this season.
Rivas said her small stature has caused her to underestimate herself even more than other people underestimate her.
“Before playing St. John Fisher, one of the tallest girls on the team, Michelle Avery, came up to me and said, ‘You’re very fast, no one can stop you on the field, and you have nothing to worry about,” Rivas said.
Stevens Institute of Technology Head Coach Celine Cunningham said Rivas’ speed makes her a difficult player to defend against.
“When things got tough she got the ball and finished,” Cunningham said. “That’s something we’ve seen for the past three years. Even as a freshman she killed us.”
Athletics have been a constant aspect of Rivas’ life since childhood. She has played lacrosse since her father signed her and her brother up for the sport when she was in the third grade.
Rivas said her father wanted she and her brother to play sports because he didn’t have the opportunity to participate in sports when he was a child.
“In high school he had a lot of siblings and he had to work, so athletics wasn’t a top priority for him,” Rivas said. “But he always found lacrosse a lot of fun and a great sport to really get his kids into in the future.”
Rivas competed for the field hockey, track and field and lacrosse teams at East Meadow. She competed for the field hockey and women’s lacrosse teams for her first two years at the college but chose to strictly play on the women’s lacrosse team this season despite being the leading scorer on the field hockey team during the 2011 season.
Rivas said she found the same enthusiasm she shared with her field hockey teammates in high school among her lacrosse teammates in college.
“There was a type of intensity and passion here for the team and for our goals that really stuck with me,” Rivas said. “It’s definitely the people that make you hate or love any sport you play.”
Rivas said it was hard to leave her field hockey teammates, but switching to offseason practices better prepared her for the spring season.
Junior midfielder Nikki Dahl, Rivas’ roommate, said playing fall ball improved Rivas’ intuition on the field.
As a legal studies major, Rivas has worked as a paralegal secretary for Goldman and Associates Law Firm since her senior year of high school. She participates on the college’s mock trial team and said she prepares for her closing arguments similarly to how she does for a big lacrosse game.
“When I was presenting I tried to show a lot of passion and emotion, and that’s what I do with lacrosse,” Rivas said.