The season is over, and with its end, a deserving champion was crowned.
An Unlimited Champion for an Unlimited League
In 2021, when the pandemic was at its height and the idea of a permanent post-collegiate women’s volleyball league was somewhat of a pipe dream, Bethania de la Cruz expressed excitement at the prospect of joining a brand-new, experimental volleyball venture started by Athletes Unlimited.
”It’s new to me,” she said to AU press room writer Bianca Silva. “In every place I’ve played, I’ve always played with the same team but in this league, it’ll be a different team every week. I’m not sure how it’ll be but I think it’ll be a very fun experience. It’s something new and I love trying out new things.
As it turned out, she was pretty darned good at trying new things; she placed second in the league’s inaugural season behind Olympic champion Jordan Larson. She also posted impressive numbers throughout, earning a positive reception percentage of 60.6% and bagging 109 kills overall. Her performance made people pay attention. All that was left to do was build off of that positive momentum, and inch up in the rankings by just one more spot.
Spoiler alert: she did it. After five weeks of dominance, Bethania de la Cruz is the newest Athletes Unlimited champion.
On her way to the title, de la Cruz was every bit as consistent as she was in 2021––and then some. She raised her kill count to 233, a league-wide best, and her dig tally increased from an admirable 67 to a nigh-unbeatable 168. That’s not even mentioning the multiple single-match records she set as if it was nothing. She absolutely showed up this season, proving that her ability to improve is, well, unlimited. That makes her a near-perfect champion for a league like this.
As High-Quality As Ever
On a much broader level, AU Volleyball’s second outing was nothing short of game-changing. For starters, the league held a college draft for the first time ever back in December, a major step in strengthening their NCAA-to-league pipeline. They also lured two more big names in Olympic bronze medalists Carli Lloyd and Alisha Grass Childress. But perhaps most impressively, the league upgraded its broadcasting schedule, adding Bally Sports to its list of partnerships and maximizing lead-in audience growth.
This isn’t even mentioning the high quality of play on the court––and the high quality-experience enjoyed by the athletes themselves. Over the course of the season, AU made catering to their sportswomens’ needs a top priority, even going so far as to cover costs for childcare and family attendance. “What I’ve heard from the players is the experience surpassed last year’s. I think the quality of play has been tremendous overall in intensity and spirit,” AU co-founder Jon Patricof said to VolleyballMag. “They’ve been here seven weeks […] and people don’t want to leave. What I get to hear from so many players is this is the best professional experience they’ve had in their lives.” As usual in Athletes Unlimited, the focus is exactly where it should be: on the incredible women at its core.
As we wrap up season 2️⃣, we want to give a shoutout to all of our players who made the season so phenomenal— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) April 20, 2022
Each and every one contributed to the history that is Athletes Unlimited 👏 pic.twitter.com/Q4Q6x1Uo1U
As for the future, details like location are still being ironed out. Per VolleyballMag, Patricof and Athletes Unlimited want to decide the venue of Season 3’s events “as early as possible.” But regardless of whether the next edition takes place in Dallas or D.C., it’s entirely clear that AU Volleyball will remain as high-quality as ever.