Leah Edmond’s priority through four-fifths of the Athletes Unlimited volleyball season was to run a clean race. Now that the final lap is here, her focus has shifted to crossing the finish line in first place as the final round of matches begins Friday.
In the hunt during AU’s previous two campaigns, Edmond has put herself in the catbird’s seat to take home the points championship, the grand prize in a league that is best described as an individual competition within a team framework.
Making incremental yearly jumps in the standings, the charismatic former Kentucky All-American has moved up from 15th in the inaugural 2021 season to sixth in 2022, and stands atop the 2023 leaderboard with 3,406 points heading into the final three matches. She is the only athlete to sit in the team captain’s chair for all five weeks.
Edmond holds a 265-point advantage over Alli Linnehan, thanks to a consistency that has seen her finish first, eighth, third and second in the weekly points chase, while her former Kentucky teammate has gone second, 39th, first and first.
During the last day of the fourth-week round-robin, Linnehan had leapfrogged to No. 1 after the first of the two matches, providing Leah with ample incentive in the nightcap. Team Edmond took two of the three sets and the aggregate, picking up 140 vital “win points” to go 2-1 on the week.
“You try not to keep the leaderboard on the forefront of your mind, but with how the league works, it’s hard to not know that it’s there and act like it’s invisible,” Edmond told us. “In the back of my head, I knew that Alli had passed me and I knew where I wanted to be finishing out the week. But it was more (in Monday’s match) that I wanted to play the best game I could and I felt the past couple games, I hadn’t played as cleanly as I could have. That affects the leaderboard when you’re not playing clean (since errors carry heavy point penalties).
“Yes, I wanted to get back to No. 1. I knew I had to play a really, really good game and my team needed to win in order to do that. Winning sets and winning matches is huge. My first year playing in AU, I had a ton of ‘stat points,’ but I wasn’t winning. My stat points kind of held me up there, but after a while, it wasn’t enough.
“Last year, I had a little better happy medium, I had more (points) in wins than I had in stats. This year, I finally evened it out. Lots of wins, lots of stat…