As the celebrities of Athletes Limitless volleyball spin into the house stretch of its five-week dash, two former Kentucky collegiate bluebloods have put just a few lengths between them and the remainder of the sector.
Leah Edmond is the fourth-round chief with 3,406 factors after her crew went 2-1 in the course of the penultimate round-robin at Legacy Park in Mesa, Arizona. Alli Linnehan is in second, 265 factors behind, after her squad gained two of its three. Their All-American faculty careers with the Wildcats overlapped throughout 2018 and ’19, they usually jockeyed for place on the prime of the leaderboard all through Week 4’s competitors, the primary of the 2023 AU season that didn’t see one crew win all three of its matches.
Edmond surged previous Linnehan (referred to as Stumler at Kentucky when the Wildcats gained the spring 2021 NCAA title) in Monday’s nightcap on the energy of a victory over Workforce Hentz (70-63 combination, 25-16, 25-22, 20-25) wherein captain Leah and one other former Kentucky mate, 6-foot-4 center hitter Kaz Brown, aggressively pressed the tempo within the first two units.
Decided to take the starch out of Bethania De La Cruz, Workforce Edmond despatched each ball it might within the celebrity outdoors hitter’s path. The technique paid off early as Edmond’s first line of protection recorded six blocks within the opening set, three by Brown, which contributed drastically to 9 hitting errors, the important thing stat in a nine-point disparity that set the tone for the remainder of the match.
Workforce Edmond focused De La Cruz 43 occasions in serve-receive. The subsequent highest was Brooke Nuneviller with 12. Betty completed with 12 kills, however didn’t get cooking till the ultimate set, wherein Workforce Hentz (1-2 on the week) salvaged 40 win factors with a late sprint to the wire after the mixture horse had left the barn.
Edmond wrapped up a extremely productive week with 14 kills (13 coming within the first two units), 9 digs and two blocks, and was voted the match’s first most beneficial participant, cashing in 60 extra factors. Brown picked up the MVP2 award by hitting .642 (9 kills on 14 errorless swings) with 5 blocks and three block assists.
“I simply actually wished to complete the weekend sturdy,” Brown mentioned. “The distinctive facet to this league is that you simply solely get one week to play with a particular group of gamers. I actually loved being with this crew and the way in which I might give again to them was by enjoying my finest.”
Behind Edmond and Linnehan on the leaderboard heading into the season’s remaining draft on Tuesday are Morgan Hentz (2,919 factors) and Nuneviller (2,643), who gained a captaincy for the primary time.
Nuneviller’s baptism of fireside comes with the primary choose within the draft’s “snake” format, and the instant hypothesis among the many TV pundits on ESPNU can be whether or not Nuneviller would use it to pick De La Cruz, the reigning AU factors champion. “Betty” is No. 5 within the standings, however at 865 factors behind, appears too far again to mount a profitable stretch drive.
Or might Claire Chaussee be the No. 1 total selection in a fourth consecutive draft after every week wherein she equaled the AU single-match document with 27 kills? Tune in Tuesday.
Down, up, down week for Hentz
Hentz’s private profitable streak in AU of 9 matches in 2023 and 11 over two seasons ended within the opener on Friday when her squad misplaced in a break up determination to Workforce Linnehan (71-68 combination, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21).
Captain Morgan had rolled the cube within the Week 5 draft, grabbing De La Cruz along with her second choose, regardless that Betty wouldn’t be again till Sunday from obligation with the Dominican Republic’s nationwide crew within the Pan American Video games. The Dominicans, ranked No. 8 on the earth, gained that competitors in Santiago, Chile, with out having to make use of De La Cruz a lot, sweeping Brazil within the gold-medal match.
Though Workforce Hentz earned 40 win factors by taking the primary set, captain Alli Linnehan (11 kills, 17 digs, two blocks), reverse Willow Johnson (15 kills, seven digs) and center hitter Molly McCage had been instrumental as their group collected the opposite 140. A momentum-shifting six-point serving run by McCage within the late phases of the third set turned an 18-17 deficit right into a 24-18 lead.
Coinciding with that rally was a situational substitution at setter for Workforce Linnehan, Taylor Bruns Tegenrot changing the shorter Nootsara Tomkom within the entrance row. Linnehan punctuated the victory with a thundering crosscourt spike and was voted the match’s MVP1.
“Week 2 was slightly massive tough, not how we wished, being the primary time as a captain,” Linnehan mentioned after incomes her breakthrough victory. “However this was a recent begin with a brand new group able to battle with one another. We had been actually constant in who we had been. We by no means had super-high highs or actually low lows.”
Alli credited veteran OH Erin Gala’s for lending stability as a sub.
“Erin got here in and did a unbelievable job passing,” she mentioned. “Our passing was constant, which helped us actually bounce off it. Kudos to the passing, kudos to Erin for stepping in massive tonight.”
In the meantime, rookie sensation Nuneviller had a stable match statistically with 13 kills and 17 digs, however Workforce Hentz struggled to search out an total hitting rhythm.
All that might change on Sunday with De La Cruz on the pins. Morgan’s profitable contact returned as her squad racked up the utmost 180 win factors in opposition to Workforce Hilley (79-68 total, 29-27, 25-21, 25-20) within the week’s lone sweep.
A nip-and-tuck opening set noticed Hilley’s crew serve for the set at 27-26, however Hentz’s bunch lastly closed it out on its third attempt with a kill by Nuneviller. Brooke and Betty had been killer B’s during the last two units, offsetting a stellar effort by stellar rookie Chaussee (18 kills, 9 digs), whose solely pink mark on the stat sheet got here from six service errors. Nuneviller was accorded MVP1 honors for her 17 kills on 36 swings with two errors (.416 effectivity) and eight digs. De La Cruz (14 kills, one ace, 9 digs) was MVP2.
Afterward, De La Cruz had excessive reward for her youthful teammate, noting that the recommendation she has given Nuneviller is to play with confidence: “Brooke is so good. When she is admittedly assured, she is unstoppable.”
Sense of leaderboard urgency by Edmond
Workforce Linnehan consolidated its good points on Sunday, topping Workforce Edmond in one other split-sets victory (75-64 combination, 25-22, 25-15, 27-25). MVP1 went to Johnson, whose monster hitting line learn 16 kills with two errors on 30 makes an attempt, a .466 share. Edmond pushed onerous so as to add the 40 win factors for the third set to her ever-growing leaderboard complete. 4 of Leah’s 14 kills got here after the rating was knotted at 21 within the third.
Edmond’s crew kicked off its week on Friday with that Athletes Limitless oddity: Successful the mixture conflict after dropping two of the three set battles. A seven-point differential within the opener by Workforce Edmond proved finally decisive in a victory over Workforce Hilley (73-71 total, 25-18, 26-28, 22-25).
Chaussee was a one-woman wrecking crew with 27 kills on 58 makes an attempt. The kills complete tied the single-match AU document set by De La Cruz in the course of the 2022 season and the swings had been probably the most ever in a league match. Including 11 digs, an ace and a block, Chaussee was tabbed as MVP1.
Edmond had 16 kills and 11 digs, good for MVP2 accolades and 40 further factors.
In Monday’s match, Workforce Hilley salvaged a 1-2 document even with Chaussee coming again to the pack a bit. Captain Sydney inserted Nicole Edelman-Cagliari, a setter by commerce who had hardly ever seen the court docket in earlier weeks, at reverse and though she hit .000 (one kills in opposition to one error on 10 assaults), Nicole contributed seven digs and 4 blocks. Edelman-Cagliari was voted MVP3 because the X-factor in one other of these idiosyncratic “win the conflict however lose the battles” situation as Workforce Hilley took the mixture complete by 5 factors over Workforce Linnehan (71-66 total, 25-15, 22-25, 24-26).
The ten-point cushion from the primary set gave Hilley’s unit some respiration room till crunch time within the third, when it wanted 19 factors to clinch however obtained mired at 18 as Linnehan and Co. scored 4 actual factors to go up 21-19. However a candy connection from Hilley to center Emma Willis resulted in a pointy kill on the fast and the nineteenth level that earned 60 win factors.
Chaussee discovered robust sledding in opposition to Workforce Linnehan’s block within the final two units and was held to .147 hitting with eight kills and three errors on 34 swings. Excessive-flying Yossiana Pressley picked up a number of the slack with 13 kills and a like variety of digs, warranting MVP1 honors. Linnehan (16 kills with two errors on 36 assaults, 10 digs) boosted her leaderboard complete with 80 win factors and 40 factors as MVP2.