Leah Edmond’s precedence via four-fifths of the Athletes Unlimited volleyball season was to run a clear race. Now that the ultimate lap is right here, her focus has shifted to crossing the end line in first place as the ultimate spherical of matches begins Friday.
Within the hunt throughout AU’s earlier two campaigns, Edmond has put herself within the catbird’s seat to take house the factors championship, the grand prize in a league that’s finest described as a person competitors inside a crew framework.
Making incremental yearly jumps within the standings, the charismatic former Kentucky All-American has moved up from fifteenth within the inaugural 2021 season to sixth in 2022, and stands atop the 2023 leaderboard with 3,406 factors heading into the ultimate three matches. She is the one athlete to take a seat within the crew captain’s chair for all 5 weeks.
Edmond holds a 265-point benefit over Alli Linnehan, due to a consistency that has seen her end first, eighth, third and second within the weekly factors chase, whereas her former Kentucky teammate has gone second, thirty ninth, first and first.
Over the last day of the fourth-week round-robin, Linnehan had leapfrogged to No. 1 after the primary of the 2 matches, offering Leah with ample incentive within the nightcap. Crew Edmond took two of the three units and the combination, choosing up 140 very important “win factors” to go 2-1 on the week.
“You attempt to not maintain the leaderboard on the forefront of your thoughts, however with how the league works, it’s exhausting to not know that it’s there and act prefer it’s invisible,” Edmond advised us. “Behind my head, I knew that Alli had handed me and I knew the place I wished to be ending out the week. But it surely was extra (in Monday’s match) that I wished to play the very best recreation I might and I felt the previous couple video games, I hadn’t performed as cleanly as I might have. That impacts the leaderboard while you’re not enjoying clear (since errors carry heavy level penalties).
“Sure, I wished to get again to No. 1. I knew I needed to play a extremely, actually good recreation and my crew wanted to win with the intention to try this. Successful units and successful matches is big. My first yr enjoying in AU, I had a ton of ‘stat factors,’ however I wasn’t successful. My stat factors sort of held me up there, however after some time, it wasn’t sufficient.
“Final yr, I had a little bit higher joyful medium, I had extra (factors) in wins than I had in stats. This yr, I lastly evened it out. A lot of wins, plenty of stat factors and it has all come collectively.
“The wins play an enormous half and never letting opponents sweep is the massive, massive factor. You must a minimum of get one set, as a result of letting them rating all 180 factors is detrimental not solely to you, however to all people else within the league.”
AU leaders via 4 weeks
Leah Edmond, 3,406 factors
Alli Linnehan, 3,141
Morgan Hentz, 2,919
Brooke Nuneviller, 2,643
Bethania De La Cruz, 2,541
Edmond’s leaderboard breakdown exhibits 1,280 win factors (within the prime 79% of AU’s 44-player roster), 1,826 stat factors (No. 1 in that class by a margin of 323) and 300 “MVP factors” (additionally No. 1). In 2022, her win-to-stats ratio was 1,600 to 1,197 and in 2021, it was 960 to 1,380. Her explosive proper arm has been a serious point-scoring issue, with a league-high 183 kills (a median of 5.08 per set) and a gaudy (for an OH at this degree) .309 hitting proportion via 12 matches.
Athletes Limitless’s season-ending 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 Week 5 captains are Edmond, Linnehan, Morgan Hentz and first-timer Brooke Nuneviller. Be aware that the match instances on Sunday and Monday are an hour later than what they’d been within the first 4 weeks. The total schedule is under:
Week 5 schedule
Friday, November 3
Crew Hentz vs. Crew Linnehan, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Crew Edmond vs. Crew Nuneviller, 9:30 p.m., ESPN+
Sunday, November 5
Crew Nuneviller vs. Crew Linnehan, 8 p.m., ESPN+
Crew Hentz vs. Crew Edmond, 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
Monday, November 6
Crew Nuneviller vs. Crew Hentz, 8 p.m., ESPN+
Crew Linnehan vs. Crew Edmond, 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
All instances Japanese
(The rosters for every crew may be discovered on the finish of the story)
Picks with a function
The captaincy supplied Edmond with the chance to execute a plan within the remaining draft that fills her with confidence.
“I’ve six of the seven starters from final week again on my crew once more,” Leah stated. “My massive aim within the draft was to maintain that crew collectively. The Friday and Sunday matches (final week) we struggled a little bit bit, weren’t enjoying to our full potential, however on Monday I noticed the entire issues that I had recognized that we have been able to doing, to play that clear and execute so properly.
“Ending the week on a excessive notice after which getting all people however one of many middles again, going into this week (that) will make every thing a lot smoother. You realize precisely what all people desires, you understand their tendencies, what we have to do to win video games, so I’m actually trying ahead to it.”
If familiarity breeds success, Edmond’s crew figures to have an edge. Leah made the identical “wraparound” picks within the draft’s “snake” format within the first and second rounds (fourth and fifth general) as she had in Week 4, snapping up setter Natalia Valentin-Anderson and out of doors hitter Lindsey Vander Weide. In Rounds 3 and 4 (twelfth and thirteenth general), Edmond tabbed reverse Genesis Collazo and center hitter Kaz Brown. Within the fifth and sixth (twentieth and twenty first general), her selections have been center Karis Watson and feisty libero Kendall White.
Valentin-Anderson was Edmond’s setter in Weeks 3 and 4, Collazo her reverse in Weeks 1, 2 and 4, and Brown one among her middles within the earlier two weeks. Watson was the one choose amongst Leah’s first six who hadn’t performed together with her but.
Puerto Rican mighty mite Valentin-Anderson, the factors runner-up in 2022, has loved one other extremely productive AU season, excelling not solely in operating her groups’ assaults however on protection. She is tied for fourth within the league with 121 digs (10.1 per match), which incorporates 5 double-digit efforts, and at 5-foot-6, has picked up a minimum of one solo block in eight of 12 matches. Natalia additionally has been one of the efficient servers with 11 aces, tied for second general.
The 6-foot-4 Brown, one other embellished collegian out of Kentucky, has flourished throughout her tenure with Crew Edmond. In three Week 4 matches, Brown totaled 11 blocks and 6 block assists, whereas hitting at .442 effectivity (22-for-43 with three errors).
“Kaz has been improbable and he or she’s gotten progressively higher each single recreation,” Edmond stated. “This would be the third week I’ve had her and we will simply see how a lot better it’s getting. It’s so helpful (in fine-tuning the connection) to have a center with the identical setter for such a very long time.”
A Bluegrass bond
The Kentucky connection she shares with Linnehan, her closest pursuer on the AU leaderboard, will not be misplaced on Edmond, who grew up in Lexington. Linnehan’s hometown of Floyds Knobs, Indiana, is correct throughout the Ohio River from Louisville.
“It’s super-exciting,” Edmond stated of getting stars with Bluegrass roots sitting first and second in an expert volleyball league in America that may be seen on nationwide cable TV (ESPNU). “I hadn’t watched Alli play since her senior yr as a result of she went abroad for a little bit bit, so simply seeing how a lot she has grown as a participant and as an individual has been a lot enjoyable. Figuring out that doubtlessly we may be 1-2 (in AU) is a big storyline this week in Kentucky.
“It has been a lot enjoyable to be round her and to play together with her once more, it introduced me again to Kentucky instances. It places a stamp on how properly we actually do complement one another in our enjoying types and who we’re as individuals. I do know her each little motion and her tendencies, so it’s enjoyable to see her attempt to beat me round that, and the identical for her understanding what my go-to pictures are.
“Throughout our recreation (this previous week), I used to be like, ‘Are you able to hit a ball please? Simply hit one. I’m bored with choosing up your pictures. I might like to dig a tough ball.’ And she or he was like, ‘By no means!’ So it’s been enjoyable, particularly after we are mic’d up (for TV) and it’s Kentucky vs. Kentucky. However I’m not going to blow you up, Alli, I promise. I cannot purpose to your head.”
Incomes a captain’s function for the second time in her rookie season, Linnehan (who was Stumler when Kentucky received the spring 2021 NCAA title) drafted a veteran crew that features crack center Molly McCage (No. 8 on the leaderboard), wily setter Nootsara Tomkom and dynamic lefty reverse Willow Johnson. The entire taking pictures match for the factors championship fairly seemingly will come all the way down to the season’s final gasp between Crew Edmond and Crew Linnehan within the nightcap on Monday, televised on ESPNU.
The opposite highlights of the ultimate draft on Tuesday got here when rookie sensation Nuneviller grabbed celebrity Bethania De La Cruz with the No. 1 choose. That left rookie Claire Chaussee, who had been the primary general selection three weeks operating, for Hentz to snap up at No. 2. Brooke additionally received an distinctive setter in Sydney Hilley (a captain in Weeks 2, 3 and 4) and productive center Jenna Rosenthal. Hentz opted to not take a setter till the fifth spherical (18th general) and her selection was Taylor Bruns Tegenrot, who had not been chosen sooner than twenty fifth.