Sunday, 10 December 2023

International Volleyball

Kentucky’s Edmond, Linnehan top AU Volleyball leaderboard after Week 4

Kentucky's Edmond, Linnehan top AU Volleyball leaderboard after Week 4

Emma Willis hits past the block of Alli Linnehan, right, and Shelly Fanning/Jade Hewitt, AU photo

As the stars of Athletes Unlimited volleyball spin into the home stretch of its five-week sprint, two former Kentucky collegiate bluebloods have put a few lengths between them and the rest of the field.

Leah Edmond is the fourth-round leader with 3,406 points after her team went 2-1 during the penultimate round-robin at Legacy Park in Mesa, Arizona. Alli Linnehan is in second, 265 points behind, after her squad won two of its three. Their All-American college careers with the Wildcats overlapped during 2018 and ’19, and they jockeyed for position at the top of the leaderboard throughout Week 4’s competition, the first of the 2023 AU season that did not see one team win all three of its matches.

Edmond surged past Linnehan (known as Stumler at Kentucky when the Wildcats won the spring 2021 NCAA title) in Monday’s nightcap on the strength of a victory over Team Hentz (70-63 aggregate, 25-16, 25-22, 20-25) in which captain Leah and another former Kentucky mate, 6-foot-4 middle hitter Kaz Brown, aggressively pressed the pace in the first two sets.

Determined to take the starch out of Bethania De La Cruz, Team Edmond sent every ball it could in the superstar outside hitter’s direction. The strategy paid off early as Edmond’s first line of defense recorded six blocks in the opening set, three by Brown, which contributed greatly to nine hitting errors, the key stat in a nine-point disparity that set the tone for the rest of the match.

Team Edmond targeted De La Cruz 43 times in serve-receive. The next highest was Brooke Nuneviller with 12. Betty finished with 12 kills, but didn’t get cooking until the final set, in which Team Hentz (1-2 on the week) salvaged 40 win points with a late dash to the wire after the aggregate horse had left the barn.

Edmond wrapped up a highly productive week with 14 kills (13 coming in the first two sets), nine digs and two blocks, and was voted the match’s first most valuable player, cashing in 60 more points. Brown picked up the MVP2 award by hitting .642 (nine kills on 14 errorless swings) with five blocks and three block assists.

“I just really wanted to finish the weekend strong,” Brown said. “The unique aspect to this league is that you only get one week to play with a specific group of players. I really enjoyed being with this team and the way I could give back to them was by…

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