Outside Hitter, 6-9
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 12, 2021) – U.S. Women’s National Team Captain and outside hitter Jordan Larson became the first ever as the first Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Champion on Monday at the end of the league’s five-week season.
Larson, the captain of Team Gold, entered her final match of the season with a significant 822-point lead over Bethania de la Cruz of Dominican Republic. Larson picked up another 306 points in the match, with 116 stat points from 10 kills, 17 digs, one block, and three aces, MVP 1 honors, and 80 win points. She finished the inaugural season 4,569 points overall.
As a member of the Players Executive Committee (PEC), Larson played a fundamental role in establishing the league. She admitted she was hesitant to believe she could win the championship because she was unsure how her PEC role would impact her level of play.
“Honestly, I thought that because of how much I was involved with the little details off the court, that it’d be more of a distraction for me,” Larson said. “As a captain of our team, I take on a lot of responsibility, and I didn’t know with recruiting players [to the league] how that was going to add to the stress of it.
“But in general, I was able to ride that wave of emotion and maintain it more than I expected. I’m shocked by how I was able to handle it.”
Women’s National Team opposite Karsta Lowe finished in fifth.
Athletes Unlimited has announced that it will have a second season in 2022.
CEV CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Four teams from Italy and Turkey, each with at least one U.S. player, made it to the semifinals of the women’s CEV Champions League.
In one semifinal, Italy’s Imoco Volley Conegliano, with outside hitters Kim Hill and McKenzie Adams, defeated Italy’s Igor Gorgonzola Novara, with U.S. setter Micha Hancock and middle blocker Haleigh Washington, 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-17) and 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-20).
In the other semifinal, setter Jordyn Poulter and Italy’s Unet e-work Busto Arsizio defeated outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and Turkey’s VakifBank Istanbul in Turkey, 3-2 (20-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-13, 15-13).
In their second meeting, VakifBank Istanbul arrived in Italy with a mission and beat Unet e-work Busto Arsizio, 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-15) to advance to the final on May 1 in Verona.
On the men’s side, middle blocker David Smith and Poland’s Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn-Koźle split two 3-2 matches with Russia’s Zenit Kazan. Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn-Koźle fought to win a golden set 15-13 to advance to the final against Italy’s Trentino Itas on May 1 in Verona. Smith was voted the top performer of the semifinals.
Three teams with U.S. players have reached the semifinals of the women’s league in Italy.
In the first semifinal matches on April 7, Imoco Volley Conegliano with outside hitters Kim Hill and McKenzie Adams beat outside hitter Megan Courtney and Savino Del Bene Scandicci, 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-14). Hill scored 14 points on 13 kills and one ace. Adams played as a substitute and scored two points on two kills. Courtney played as a substitute.
Conegliano finished the regular season undefeated at 24-0. Scandicci finished 15-9.
In the other semifinal on April 7, Igor Gorgonzola Novara, with setter Micha Hancock and middle blocker Haleigh Washington, beat Saugella Monza, 3-2 (25-21, 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-10). Washington scored 16 points on nine kills, a match-high six blocks and one ace. Hancock scored two points on an ace and a block and set her team to a .370 hitting efficiency.
Novara finished the regular season in second place at 19-5.
On the men’s side, middle blocker Max Holt and Vero Volley Monza fell to Sir Safety Conad Perugia, 2-1 in the playoff semifinals. In the deciding match on April 4, Monza lost, 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-21). Holt scored six points on three kills, two blocks and one ace.
Holt and Monza defeated outside hitter T.J. DeFalco and Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia in the quarterfinals, 2-1. In the deciding match on March 20, DeFalco was the co-scoring leader for his team with 19 points on 17 kills and two aces. Holt played as a substitute.
DeFalco and Vibo Valentia are 1-3 in the playoff for fifth place.
Setter Micah Christenson and Leo Shoes Modena beat Consar Ravenna 2-0 in the playoff preliminary. It lost to Cucine Lube Civitanova in the quarterfinals, 2-0. Modena is 1-3 in the fifth-place playoff.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell left his Italian team Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza after the playoff preliminary round for health reasons. Piacenza finished the regular season in sixth place at 13-9. Piacenza advanced from the preliminary, beating Kioene Padova 2-0 and Russell scored in double figures in both matches. Padova lost to Itas Trentino in the quarterfinals, 2-0.
Setter Kawika Shoji also left his team Kioene Padova before the end of the season so he could rehabilitate his broken hand in the United States. Padova finished the regular season in 11th place (4-18) before losing to Piacenza in the playoff preliminary round.
Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke and NBV Verona placed ninth in the regular season at 9-15. Verona fell to Allianz Milano in the playoff preliminary, 2-1. Verona is 2-2 in the fifth-place playoff, but Jaeschke has left the team to return to the United States.
Turkey’s women’s league has reached the finals of its playoffs.
In the final, Vakifbank Istanbul, which finished the regular season in first place at 29-1, and outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hakcley lead Fenerbahçe Opet Istanbul, which finished the regular season in second place at 27-3, and outside hitter Kelsey Robinson, 1-0.
In the first match on April 10, Vakifbank beat Fenerbahçe Opet, 3-2 (25-16, 22-25, 18-25, 25-18, 15-10). Bartsch-Hackley scored 14 points on 10 kills, two blocks and two aces. Robinson scored 17 points on 13 kills, two blocks and two aces.
Vakifbank made it to the finals by beating Türk Hava Yolları, with setter Lauren Carlini and outside hitter Madi Kingdon Rishel, in the semifinals, 2-0.
In the other semifinal, Fenerbahçe Opet beat Eczacıbaşı VitrA with middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu and outside hitter Jordan Thompson, 2-1.
In the first match for third place, Türk Hava Yolları beat Eczacıbaşı VitrA, 3-1 (25-10, 26-24, 19-25, 25-21). Kingdon Rishel scored 15 points on 12 kills, one block and two aces. Carlini scored four points on two kills, one block and one ace and set her team to a .344 hitting efficiency. Thompson started the second two sets and scored eight points on seven kills and one block. Ogbogu did not play.
Middle blocker David Smith and Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle have advanced to the final of Poland’s playoffs after beating outside hitter Taylor Sander and PGE Skra Bełchatów in the semifinals, 2-1.
Kędzierzyn-Koźle won the deciding match at home, 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-21). Smith scored three points on two kills and one ace. Sander scored five points on four kills and one block.
Kędzierzyn-Koźle will play Jastrzębski Węgiel in the final starting April 14. Bełchatów will face VERVA Warszawa ORLEN Paliwa in the third-place bracket.
Middle blocker Jeff Jendryk and Asseco Resovia Rzeszów won the fifth-place playoff bracket, beating Trefl Gdańsk, 2-0.
Outside hitter Garrett Muagututia and Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie beat setter Josh Tuaniga and Ślepsk Malow Suwałki for seventh place. The teams tied their matches 1-1 before Zawiercie won a golden set, 15-10.
Outside hitter Brenden Sander and Cerrad Enea Czarni Radom lost the 11th-place bracket to Cuprum Lubin. After the two teams tied 1-1, Lubin won a golden set, 15-12.
Opposite Annie Drews and JT Marvelous won Japan’s V League championship. JT Marvelous beat the favored Toray Arrows in the final 3-1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20). Outside hitter Kathryn Plummer and the Denso Airybees placed fourth.
Drews and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson, who played for Hisamitsu Springs, were both named to the league’s “best six.”
Libero Erik Shoji and Fakel Novy Urengoy placed sixth in the Russian league playoffs. Urengoy lost to Zenit Kazan in the fifth-place match, 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-15, 25-19). Shoji was credited with 23 receptions.
Opposite Danielle Cuttino, outside hitter Megan Hodge and Itambe Minas won Brazil’s women’s league playoffs, defeating Dentil Praia Clube in the final, 2-1. In the final match, Itambe Minas won, 3-2 (25-17, 13-25, 12-25, 25-18, 15-11). Hodge led all scorers with 24 points on 21 kills, two blocks and one ace. Cuttino scored nine points on seven kills and two blocks.
The Berlin Recycling Volleys with opposite Ben Patch and outside hitter Cody Kessel leads Vfb Friedrichshafen with U.S. setter Joe Worsley and libero Avery Aylsworth, 2-0 in their best-of-five league final.
Middle blocker Taylor Averill and Cannes and middle blocker Daniel McDonnell and Chaumont will play each other in the semifinals of the French playoffs.
Cannes defeated Tourcoing in the quarterfinals, 2-1. In the final match on April 11, Cannes fought back to win 3-2 (19-25, 26-28, 25-22, 25-22, 15-12). Averill scored 16 points on 13 kills, two aces and one block.
Chaumont beat Tours, 2-0 in the quarterfinal series.
Setter Micah Ma’a and Poitiers fell to Montpellier 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
Middle blocker George Huhmann and Knack Roeselare are leading middle blocker Mitch Stahl and VC Greenyard Maaseik in the best-of-five playoff finals, 2-1.
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