Tori Dixon totally expects Bethania De La Cruz to do “Betty issues,” which means that regardless that the celebrity outdoors hitter shall be obtainable for less than the final two of three matches in Week 4, that’s unhealthy information for the remainder of Athletes Limitless.
Dixon, the veteran center hitter with intensive expertise on the USA nationwide staff, was taken in Spherical 3 of the fourth-week volleyball draft by captain Morgan Hentz, who tabbed rookie outdoors hitter Brooke Nuneviller within the first spherical and snapped up De La Cruz within the second, sixth general.
Why would Betty, the defending Athletes Limitless factors champion and arguably the very best participant within the league, have lasted till the third spherical in AU’s “snake” draft format? On the ESPNU broadcast Monday, when phrase filtered down that De Le Cruz may very well be drafted, however wouldn’t return from her responsibility with the Dominican Republic’s nationwide staff in time to play in Friday’s match, TV pundit Kevin Barnett flat-out predicted that she nonetheless can be the primary participant chosen.
Maybe the prospect of her lacking a match, forcing a staff to play short-handed, scared off the opposite Week 4 captains.
However not Hentz, who got here in with the luxurious of a private 9-0 report by the primary three-fifths of AU’s five-week season. Morgan additionally had first-hand data of what the complementary OH mixture of Nuneviller and Betty may accomplish collectively throughout an undefeated Week 2, and may need figured on the worst, because the late, nice Meat Loaf sang, that two out of three ain’t unhealthy.
De La Cruz was No. 1 on the leaderboard in Athletes Limitless’s non-traditional scoring system after two weeks, however stands No. 5 after per week away, which ought to present the 36-year-old veteran with oodles of incentive to make up misplaced floor.
“Betty is Betty. I don’t know whether or not she will be able to get again all the best way to No. 1 (in a single week, whereas lacking a match), however she goes to do Betty issues,” Dixon predicted. “Betty goes to get her factors.”
Athletes Limitless’s fourth-week round-robin shall be contested Friday, Sunday and Monday at Legacy Park in Mesa, Arizona. 4 matches shall be streamed on ESPN+, and the nightcaps on Sunday and Monday will air on cable ESPNU. The captains this week are Hentz, Leah Edmond, Sydney Hilley and Alli Linnehan. The total schedule is under:
Week 4 schedule
Friday, October 27
Workforce Linnehan vs. Workforce Hentz, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Workforce Edmond vs. Workforce Hilley, 9:30 p.m., ESPN+
Sunday, October 29
Workforce Hilley vs. Workforce Hentz, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Workforce Linnehan vs. Workforce Edmond, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU
Monday, October 30
Workforce Hilley vs. Workforce Linnehan, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Workforce Hentz vs. Workforce Edmond, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU
All occasions Japanese
(The rosters for every staff could be discovered on the finish of the story.)
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The burning query heading into Week 4 is: Can Hentz proceed to take the remainder of Athletes Limitless prisoner? Whereas firmly establishing the libero place as an element within the captaincy, primarily due to the important “win factors” she has amassed, the previous Stanford three-time All-American has completed nothing however win, win, win by three weeks, going 3-0 as a key member of Edmond’s first-week crew and 6-0 on the helm of her personal groups.
Hentz went out on a limb (kind of) by drafting De La Cruz. The opening match of the third-week slate on Friday in opposition to Workforce Linnehan is likely to be problematic, however as soon as Workforce Hentz will get Betty aboard, the chances seem stacked in opposition to the opposition. The opposite outdoors hitters drafted by Hentz had been Brazilian Sassa Gonzaga, who primarily has seen back-row responsibility for her groups, and Lindsay Stalzer, an AU veteran with restricted courtroom time in 2023. They determine to be within the crosshairs in Friday’s opening match.
“Brooke and Betty, these had been nice decisions for Morgan,” mentioned Dixon, who appeared happy as punch to have been picked to play with Hentz, not in opposition to her as within the season’s first three weeks, when she spoke with Volleyball Journal. “You might have the very best of each worlds. You might have the strongest passer (in Nuneviller) after which the strongest attacker (in De La Cruz).
“Betty is simply such a unbelievable attacker, with comparatively low errors, which is de facto vital on this league and, truly, simply essential, interval, when it comes to volleyball. So with that combo, regardless that Betty isn’t going to be right here on Friday, we’re going to be hopefully simply tremendous. After which Betty could make her presence identified on Sunday and Monday, and make up for these misplaced factors within the final two matches.”
What shouldn’t be missed within the large image is the frequent denominator in an undefeated report in opposition to elite skilled competitors with completely different teammates every week: The defensive prowess and flooring management of libero Hentz.
“Morgan is so, so spectacular,” mentioned Dixon, 31, who has performed in opposition to the very best liberos on this planet as a long-time member of the USA nationwide staff and in elite leagues abroad. “Her protection is loopy. She’s profitable on a regular basis right here in AU, so clearly she creates some actually good staff chemistry.
“Defensively, she is insane. She digs all the things, which is one thing each staff is conscious of. The mindset has been, ‘OK, career-low makes an attempt for Morgan,’ the place we’re consciously attempting to maintain the ball away from her.
“I’m actually excited to play along with her as a center blocker, as a result of understanding that there’s a participant who will dig each ball behind me provides me that freedom to leap and dive in, make these large strikes. She’s going to cowl my butt if a hitter does beat me in a seam. It’s unbelievable to have the liberty to dam what I see and browse.”
The remainder of the story
AU’s factors system favors gamers who can rack up kills (below league guidelines, as in worldwide play, liberos don’t even serve), but Hentz sits No. 2 on the general leaderboard regardless of a “stat factors” whole of 737 that ranks ninth. In a sport during which the “first contact,” incessantly is the determiner of success or failure, Morgan has been instrumental in retaining her squads on level.
“Passing-wise, Morgan’s groups have been ‘in system’ lots,” Dixon famous. “As a center blocker, I get stoked about that since you all the time are going to have the chance to assault the ball. I’m actually enthusiastic about taking part in with Morgan. She’s completed an exceptional job and has actually made her presence identified defensively. I’m simply hoping to maintain this profitable streak going for her.”
Dixon was chosen eleventh general, six spots increased than in any of the earlier three drafts, after a extremely productive Week 3 that noticed her be voted MVP1 and MVP2 in victories by her staff. Hentz then selected reverse Saskia Hippe, the German veteran who performed at an uber stage (with an MVP1 match after a 15-kill efficiency) when teamed along with her and Nuneviller in Week 2.
“I’m right here, too, blocking balls, hopefully,” Dixon mentioned, in what may very well be an understatement of her position on a doubtlessly dominant squad that features veteran setter Alisha Childress.
In the meantime, three different groups will look to strip the “0” from Hentz and her crew.
For the third consecutive week, rookie outdoors hitter Claire Chaussee was the general No. 1 choice within the draft, taken by setter Hilley. These two had a extremely efficient connection in Week 2.
Veteran center hitter Molly McCage, who got here off of a big week during which she had two MVP1s and an MVP3, lasted till the No. 2 choose, tabbed by Linnehan. The “wraparound” fourth and fifth general picks within the snake format by Edmond had been setter Natalia Valentin-Anderson and outdoors hitter Lindsey Vander Weide. That represented a major uptick within the inventory of Vander Weide, who had gone twentieth, thirty first and 14th within the earlier drafts.