Outside Hitter, 6-2
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 23, 2021) – The U.S. women’s professional volleyball league Athletes Unlimited debuts Friday, giving fans a place to watch the sport they love and giving some U.S. athletes a chance to play in-country.
Among the U.S. athletes who will play for Athletes Unlimited are current U.S. National Team players Tori Dixon, Jordan Larson and Karsta Lowe. Former national teamers Cassidy Lichtman and Lauren Gibbemeyer are also on the roster. Several international athletes are also participating, including Brazilian two-time Olympic champion Sheilla Castro and Puerto Rico Olympian Aury Cruz.
During the winter, most top volleyball players compete in professional leagues in Europe, Asia and South America where they can earn money while playing the sport. Players have long hoped for a professional league in the United States.
“That’s one of the things we are excited about,” Lichtman said. “In starting this in the U.S., people are excited about playing at home. There are also foreigners who are excited about playing in the U.S. To have people like that here, and to have that high level the first season, is huge.”
A five-member Player Executive Committee reviews decisions for the league. Lichtman and Larson are both part of the committee.
“It’s not lip-service,” Lichtman said. “They really are allowing athletes a lot of power in the decision making.”
The Athletes Unlimited format is different from other pro leagues that have teams based in different cities. All the players are based in Dallas, Texas. Matches will all be played Feb. 27-March 29 at Fair Park Coliseum with no spectators this year because of COVID.
Before every weekend of matches, four team captains are chosen from the players and each captain drafts a team. Each team has a color based on its standing: 1. Gold, 2. Orange, 3. Blue, 4. Purple.
Each match is played to three sets. The winning team is the one that finishes with the most total points.
Players also earn (or lose) individual points based on their statistics and three players are voted MVP of the match by other players and by fans who join the “Unlimited Club.”
According to the Athletes Unlimited web site, “Athletes Unlimited has developed a scoring system for the sport of volleyball that is designed to highlight the individual performance of an athlete within the context of overall team performance. Given the nature of the Athletes Unlimited unique competition format, the scoring system should account for both the player’s measurable individual statistical impact, as well as their intangible influence on team outcomes.”
View more on how the scoring system works at auprosports.com.
The Athletes Unlimited matches will be shown live on Facebook, Twitter and Twitch. Select matches will also be show on CBS Sports and FOX Sports. View the schedule at auprosports.com.