Bethania De La Cruz Takes the Top Spot in Athletes Unlimited Volleyball

Jordan Larson dropped to second place in the overall standings, followed by Karsta Lowe and Kelly Hunter

By Alex Holmes

Behind an undefeated week and multiple MVP 1 performances, outside hitter Bethania De La Cruz passed Jordan Larson on the overall leaderboard in Week 3 of the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball season. De La Cruz and Larson secured their spots as captains for a third straight week and are joined by opposite hitter Karsta Lowe and setter Kelly Hunter, who is making her first appearance as a team captain heading into Week 4. 

With three weeks completed and three more weeks remaining, Athletes Unlimited has officially reached the midpoint of its inaugural volleyball season. During Week 3, Bethania De La Cruz and her team went undefeated for a second consecutive week. Similar to Week 2, De La Cruz knocked off Larson’s Gold Team in the week’s final match to secure a 3-0 record. 

Bethania De La Cruz’s Orange Team went undefeated in Week 3. (SOURCE: Athletes Unlimited, Jade Hewitt)

Larson’s team finished the week at 2-1. In her team’s match against Leah Edmond’s Blue Team, Larson and the Gold Team won a thrilling opening set 37-35, which is the highest set point total yet to be played this season. Edmond and her team finished the week with a 1-2 record, notching one match win against Ebony Nwanebu’s Purple Team, who went winless in Week 3.

Athletes Unlimited, the only professional women’s indoor volleyball league in the United States, uses a player-centric model that allows athletes to accumulate team points from set wins and overall match wins, as well as points from individual statistics.

De La Cruz’s Orange Team dominated the Week 3 standings, with De La Cruz herself earning the most points from her Week 3 performance, adding 1018 points to her name on the overall leaderboard. Setter Kelly Hunter, outside hitter Lindsay Stalzer, and opposite hitter Karsta Lowe all competed on the Orange Team as well, and rounded out the week’s top four highest point totals.

Looking at where things stand on the overall leaderboard, Larson dropped to second place and Karsta Lowe reclaimed her spot in the top four, finishing in third place. Lowe was a captain in Week 2. Kelly Hunter is the first setter to take on the role as captain after her performance in Week 3 bumped her up to fourth place in the standings. Edmond dropped to fifth place. Brie King, Lianna Sybeldon, Lindsay Stalzer, Nomaris Vélez Agosto, and Week 3 captain Ebony Nwanebu rounded out the top 10.

De La Cruz earned MVP 1 two times this week. Outside hitter and Week 1 captain Aury Cruz, along with middle blocker Molly McCage, Larson, and Lowe also grabbed MVP 1 honors during the week. 

Larson led the league in kills, amassing 384 points from her attack. Lowe and De La Cruz tied for the second most hits, each adding 328 points to their names. Setter Brie King had the most assists, earning 128 points from her setting. Hunter finished second in assists, contributing 123 assists to her point total in her big week. Larson, Hunter, and De La Cruz dominated serves in Week 3, with each earning 48 points from service aces.

On defense, King led the way in digs for 225 points. Larson, along with liberos Tiffany Clark and Vélez Agosto, rounded out the top four most digs for the week. Stalzer played a huge role on De La Cruz’s Orange Team. This was very evident in her defense, as she led the league in blocks and earned 96 points in the process.

Symone Abbott (#42) goes in for a kill during the Purple Team’s final match in Week 3. (SOURCE: Athletes Unlimited, Jade Hewitt)

The Week 4 draft shook up several player partnerships that have evolved over the last few weeks. Hunter kicked off the season’s fourth draft by selecting Leah Edmond as the No. 1 overall pick. Hunter, one of the league’s top setters, and outside hitter Edmond will be teammates for the first time this season. Hunter also selected libero Vélez Agosto. They have played together for the last two weeks.

Lowe’s first pick was setter Brie King. The two will play together for the first time this season and should make a good pairing—King leads the league in assists and Lowe leads the league in kills.

Larson picked up Nwanebu as her top pick. She also selected fellow outside hitter Deja McClendon for the second week in a row. The two played together in the first and third week as well. The full rosters for Week 4 are available here.

De La Cruz and Larson are both around 400 points ahead of the rest of the pack heading into Week 4. The race for the title of the Athletes Unlimited Champion is heating up as the league begins the second half of the season.

Week 4 action begins Saturday, March 20 at 6 P.M. with Team Hunter taking on Team Larson. The match will air live on FS2. Team Lowe will play Team De La Cruz in the evening’s second match, which is slated for 8:30 P.M. and will stream live on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter. A full schedule for Week 4’s matches is available here.

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