Setter and team captain, Brie King, led her team to success in their first match of Athletes Unlimited’s final weekend of competition, winning two out of three sets and taking the match 68-58. This is the setter’s first weekend as a captain, but she said that the role didn’t intimidate her.
“I think the setter’s role on a team is often the leader on the court, and I feel like there’s been weeks already where I’ve had to manage everyone by making sure that everyone is feeling good and in the right zone,” King said.
King’s No. 1 pick in the draft was Aury Cruz, and the outside hitter didn’t disappoint in her first performance of the weekend. She finished the game with 15 kills on 30 attempts for a .430 attack percentage, three blocks, and nine digs. The high level of play earned her MVP 1 points, giving her 60 points to put her at 328 overall.
In the first set, the two teams were close and had seven instances where they were tied. Neither team was able to build more than a three-point gap until 18-18 when opposite Ebony Nwanebu on Team De la Cruz stepped up to the serving line. A Nwanebu ace, along with two kills and one block kept Nwanebu at the service line to close out the set 25-18. Although Cruz was a crucial player for Team King and earned seven kills, it wasn’t enough for her team to overtake Team De la Cruz late in the set.
Team King responded with a vengeance in Set 2 and turned the momentum in their favor. As a whole, Team King serve received and passed better than they had in the first set, allowing King to run the ball to her middles. Taylor Morgan had no kills in the first set but obtained five kills on five attempts, and Lauren Gibbemeyer completed the set with two kills.
Cruz continued to be a crucial point scorer for Team King and earned four kills. She also improved her defense at the net from the first set and obtained two blocks.
Entering the third set, it was anyone’s game for claiming the overall match as Team King only led by four points, 43-39.
However, Team King continued to carry their momentum and took the third set 25-18, winning each team member 40 points for the set and 60 points for winning the match.
The two teams were close throughout the set until Team King began to pull away at 18-16, outscoring Team De la Cruz 8-2 from there. Two kills from Cruz, along with a block from Morgan on match point against De la Cruz helped Team King claim the set.
Team De la Cruz shifted their line-up in the third set, mixing in outside hitter Erin Fairs and middle blocker Briana Holman. While adding them to the line-up wasn’t enough to help Team De la Cruz win, Holman hit .444, with four kills on nine attempts, and Fairs obtained one kill.
Opposite Katie Carter on Team King played more in this match than any other in the season thus far. She played back row for Alex Holston on Team King and finished the night with one ace, two kills, and four digs.
Holston has also lacked substantial playing time this season, but finished the match with a .310 attack percentage from nine kills on 26 attempts. She earned MVP 2 honors for 40 points, putting her at 206 overall.
Libero Kristen Tupac was voted MVP 3 for an additional 20 points from the match, finishing the match with 215 total points. Throughout the match, Tupac made it difficult for Team De la Cruz’s hitters to score and had 12 digs. She also serve received at a .600 percentage, which gave King flexibility for running her ideal offensive strategy.
On Sunday, March 28, Team De la Cruz will battle Team Lowe at 6 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. CT and Team King will face Team Larson at 8:30 p.m ET/ 7:30 p.m CT. Both matches will take place on FS2.
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