The Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Exhibition Tour was the ultimate road trip. A team of professional volleyball athletes traveled across the country to play a series of exhibition matches against top college programs while promoting the sport at a grassroots level and previewing the fall championship season. The 16 athletes stopped at nine universities and two of the largest youth tournaments in the U.S.
These are the 5 things you may have missed from the Volleyball Exhibition Tour.
1. Eight AU athletes welcomed home
Eight different AU players returned to their alma maters to play against (and in some cases, with) their former college team:
- Kaz Brown & Leah Edmond (Kentucky)
- Erin Fairs (Louisville)
- Taylor Reid (Minnesota)
- Sydney Hilley (Wisconsin)
- Molly McCage (Texas)
- Alisha Glass-Childress & Deja McClendon (Penn State)
As each of their names were announced during starting lineups at their respective schools, they received a standing ovation, and it made for some emotional homecomings.
“This doesn’t happen often, if ever,” said middle blocker Molly McCage. “You don’t get to go back to your school and do it all over again with your friends as an adult. It was so special.”
Introducing: Coming Home ft. @MollyMcCage
This episode, featuring McCage's return to @TexasVolleyball, is the first in a series of Coming Home highlights from the Volleyball Exhibition Tour set to premiere every Wednesday 📺 pic.twitter.com/GeaeHoe5qb
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) May 3, 2023
2. Two National Champions received a special gift
Penn State alumni Deja McClendon & Alisha Childress got a warm welcome back to Rec Hall. The former Nittany Lions, who hold a combined five National Championships for the school, shared a special moment as they were gifted the same jerseys they wore while playing in Happy Valley.
4️⃣ Pictures 📸
5️⃣ National Championships 🏆
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) April 21, 2023
McClendon and Childress even got to put on the dark blue and white and play with their former team. McClendon reminisced saying, “Everything’s a little bit different, but the energy is exactly the same.”
How fun was tonight?
— Penn State Women’s Volleyball (@PennStateVBALL) April 22, 2023
3. Fans showed up and showed out
Fans showed up big time across the country in support of their local colleges and to see what professional volleyball in the U.S. is all about.
As outside hitter Deja McClendon put it, “The fans are everything!”
The largest crowd was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where over 2,600 fans packed into the Field House to watch AU in a four-set victory against the Badgers.
Pretty good crowd on hand the #Badgers’ second scrimmage against Athletes Unlimited, which includes former #Badger Sydney Hilley and former Marquette Golden Eagle Jenna Rosenthal. pic.twitter.com/GLKSQO1336
— Mark Stewart Ⓜ️ (@MarkStewartMJS) April 6, 2023
“I was so proud to have all of my AU girls come here and just experience what it’s like in the Field House because it’s really special,” said AU setter and Wisconsin alum Sydney Hilley.
Sydney Hilley setting the slide, in the Field House, to a former All-American Middle…
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) April 6, 2023
4. Edmond went off
Outside hitter Leah Edmond held nothing back this spring.
She was back and better than ever as she led Athletes Unlimited in kills and points on the tour. During AU’s matchup against Texas, the reigning NCAA National Champion, Edmond exploded with 18 kills hitting a clean .324 and finished with 23 total points – over twice as many as any other AU player.
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) April 26, 2023
5. Lichtman took on a new role
You may have seen Cassidy Lichtman on the sidelines of each game, but this time, she wasn’t in an AU jersey.
Lichtman took on the role of head coach during the entire Exhibition Tour, but that was nothing new to her. In 2016, the Stanford alum returned to her alma mater as an assistant, helping lead the Cardinal to another NCAA Title. Lichtman was also named Director of Sport last July and became the first active athlete to be named to a governing board of a pro sports league when she joined the AU Board of Directors.
Heading home! Thanks to all the fans who came out and huge thanks to the programs who said yes to growing the game with us!@PennStateVBALL @OhioStateWVB @KentuckyVB @LouisvilleVB @TexasVolleyball @HUBisonVB @BaylorVBall @GopherVBall @BadgerVB https://t.co/qroPpRig4C
— Cassidy Lichtman (@CassidyLichtman) April 22, 2023
Season 3 of Athletes Unlimited Volleyball, which is set to begin in October, will take place at Legacy Park in Mesa, Arizona.
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