Saturday, 20 Jul 2024

National Teams Update: Larson Wins AU Title

U.S. Women’s National Team Captain and outside hitter Jordan Larson achieved a remarkable feat by becoming the first-ever Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Champion. Larson, who led Team Gold, dominated the league throughout its five-week season and finished with a commanding 822-point lead over her closest competitor, Bethania de la Cruz of the Dominican Republic. Larson’s exceptional performance in the final match further solidified her victory, as she accumulated 306 points, including 10 kills, 17 digs, one block, and three aces. With a total of 4,569 points, Larson finished the inaugural season as an undisputed champion.

Larson’s success was made even more impressive considering her role as a member of the Players Executive Committee (PEC), which played a crucial part in establishing the league. Despite initial concerns that her off-court responsibilities would hinder her performance, Larson managed to handle the pressure with incredible composure and achieve unparalleled success.

Excitingly, Athletes Unlimited has announced plans for a second season in 2022, building upon the triumph of its inaugural edition.

CEV CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Moving on to the CEV Champions League, the women’s competition witnessed an exciting semifinal showdown between four teams from Italy and Turkey, each featuring talented U.S. players. Imoco Volley Conegliano, led by outside hitters Kim Hill and McKenzie Adams, emerged victorious against Italy’s Igor Gorgonzola Novara, which included U.S. setter Micha Hancock and middle blocker Haleigh Washington. Imoco Volley Conegliano secured convincing 3-0 wins in both matches, showcasing their dominance on the court.

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In the other semifinal, setter Jordyn Poulter and Unet e-work Busto Arsizio achieved an impressive comeback victory against Turkey’s VakifBank Istanbul, led by outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, after being down 0-2 in sets. Busto Arsizio’s determination and resilience led them to secure a thrilling 3-2 victory and a spot in the final against VakifBank Istanbul.

VakifBank Istanbul, determined to make amends for their previous defeat, showcased their strength and skill in a rematch against Unet e-work Busto Arsizio, ultimately securing a convincing 3-0 victory to advance to the final.

On the men’s side, middle blocker David Smith and Poland’s Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn-Koźle fought valiantly against Russia’s Zenit Kazan in a series of closely contested matches. After splitting two 3-2 matches, Kędzierzyn-Koźle emerged victorious in a thrilling golden set, winning 15-13. This hard-fought victory secured their place in the final against Italy’s Trentino Itas.

ITALY

The women’s league in Italy showcased the immense talent of teams featuring U.S. players. In the first semifinal, Imoco Volley Conegliano, led by outside hitters Kim Hill and McKenzie Adams, displayed their dominance against Savino Del Bene Scandicci, which included outside hitter Megan Courtney. Conegliano’s unbeaten record in the regular season propelled them to a convincing 3-0 victory, securing their place in the final.

In the other semifinal, Igor Gorgonzola Novara, featuring setter Micha Hancock and middle blocker Haleigh Washington, faced off against Saugella Monza. In a thrilling five-set match, Novara emerged as the victors, highlighting the exceptional performances of Washington, who contributed 16 points, and Hancock, who showcased her exceptional setting skills.

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The men’s league saw middle blocker Max Holt and Vero Volley Monza fall short against Sir Safety Conad Perugia in the playoff semifinals. Despite a valiant effort, Monza couldn’t overcome Perugia’s dominance, resulting in a 3-0 loss.

TURKEY

In Turkey’s women’s league playoffs, VakifBank Istanbul, led by outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hakcley, faced off against Fenerbahçe Opet Istanbul, featuring outside hitter Kelsey Robinson. In an exhilarating first match, VakifBank secured a hard-fought 3-2 victory, highlighting the outstanding performances of Bartsch-Hackley and Robinson. These two powerhouses of Turkish volleyball are set to compete in a thrilling final match.

POLAND

Middle blocker David Smith and Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle demonstrated their prowess in the Polish playoffs, defeating PGE Skra Bełchatów, which included outside hitter Taylor Sander, in a closely contested semifinal series. Kędzierzyn-Koźle’s victory secured their spot in the final, where they will face off against Jastrzębski Węgiel in a highly anticipated matchup.

These are just a few of the exciting updates from the world of international volleyball, where talented American players continue to make their mark. Stay tuned for more thrilling matches and exceptional performances in the coming weeks.