2023 in Review: The Biggest AU Pro Volleyball Moments

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Sarah Smith
Savanna Collins
Dec 27, 2023

Athletes Unlimited wrapped up it’s final sport of 2023 with the much-anticipated return of Volleyball. It had been 18 months since the last Championship season and the athletes – returning, rookies and newcomers – were excited to step back on the court.

Despite the wait, it was a stellar year for AU Pro Volleyball. These are the top three moments from 2023.

1. First-ever Exhibition Tour

AU Pro Volleyball traveled across the country for an Exhibition Tour — the first of its kind in the league. Nine different NCAA Division I universities (Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, Kentucky, Louisville, Texas, Baylor, and Howard) were stops along the tour. It began on March 25 and for three weeks, 15 pros played in the exhibition matches at college campuses and also visited two of the largest youth tournaments in the United States.

The tour helped to promote the sport and AU at a grassroots level and previewed the fall championship season.

Seven players on the Exhibition Tour’s roster were able to return to their alma mater, including Leah Edmond (Kentucky), Erin Fairs (Louisville), Deja McClendon (Penn State), Taylor Reid (Minnesota), Kaz Brown (Kentucky), Molly McCage (Texas), and Sydney Hilley (Wisconsin).

2. Here to stay

Each year of AU Pro Volleyball has evolved with increased competition, growing fandom and bigger opportunities for the league. But 2023 marked a milestone for the sport on the pro level – after completing the third season this fall, AU is now the longest-standing indoor pro volleyball league in the United States.

The first two seasons of AU Pro Volleyball took place in Dallas, Texas but 2023 marked the move to a new market. Legacy Park Sports Complex hosted the 30-match championship season at the 320-acre complex in Mesa, Ariz. The addition of the spring tour also shifted the Championship Season to the fall, drawing in attendance from local universities who were in season to come out and watch AU.

The Phoenix area is also home to Willow Johnson, Amanda Benson, and Brooke Nuneviller who all had the unique experience of playing pro volleyball right in their backyards.

3. Broadcast Expansion

A major aspect of growing the fandom and coverage of the 2023 season included a new exclusive broadcast rights deal with ESPN. All 30 matches aired live across ESPN’s television networks and ESPN+. It marked an expansion of AU’s relationship with ESPN, which also exclusively carried its softball and lacrosse competitions in 2023.

AU Pro Volleyball was the first pro volleyball game to air on ESPN networks when the seasoned kicked off on Oct. 6th.


Savanna Collins is the Digital Media Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.

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