Bethania De La Cruz

Recap: Team De La Cruz wins golden set thriller to close Week 1

Team Valentin-Anderson wins two sets despite losing overall match

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Eric Rhew
Oct 09, 2023

MESA, Arizona — Outside hitter Bethania De La Cruz may have seen her streak of 10 weeks as an Athletes Unlimited Volleyball captain come to an end on Monday night against Team Valentin-Anderson. But, there was no way she was going to go out without collecting one final victory.

And while it may have required the second ‘Golden Set’ in the league’s three-year history, De La Cruz got that last triumph after securing a 74-72 verdict to wrap up the opening week’s schedule at Legacy Park.

Team De La Cruz completed the first week of the season with a 1-2 record, while Team Valentin-Anderson dropped all three of its matches in the opening segment.

De La Cruz secured the 22nd Match MVP award of her career after notching 15 kills with eight digs and two service aces over the first three sets. The MVP 1 selection closed the night with 310 leaderboard points, giving her 300 or more leaderboard points for the 16th time in her career.

Middle blocker Kayla Caffey registered her first career Match MVP honor after tallying three kills with three solo blocks and three digs in the first three sets, giving the newcomer MVP 3 honors and 207 leaderboard points.

Middle blocker Kaz Brown paced Team Valentin-Anderson in the loss, earning MVP 2 accolades on the strength of seven kills and five solo blocks.


After Team Valentin-Anderson forced the Golden Set with a 25-18 verdict in the third set, Team De La Cruz scored the first three points of the extra frame for a 72-69 edge. Team Valentin-Anderson trimmed the margin to 73-72 by scoring three of the next four points before De La Cruz’s kill sealed the victory.


The win allowed De La Cruz to end the opening week with 761 leaderboard points, but her streak of 10 consecutive weeks as a captain will come to a close. Week Two will mark the first time she will not serve as a captain since March 1, 2021, ending a streak of 952 days as a captain.


  • Team Valentin-Anderson and Team De La Cruz combined to record five service aces in Monday’s Week One finale, upping the league’s season total to 28 aces through six matches … Aspiration is committed to planting 10 trees for every service ace this season as part of its ‘Aspiration Aces’ initiative.

  • Team Valentin-Anderson and Team De La Cruz played the second “Golden Set” match in Athletes Unlimited Volleyball history … Team Lichtman edged Team Valentin-Anderson by a 78-76 margin in the first-ever “Golden Set” match on April 16, 2022.

  • Willow Johnson collected her sixth career double-digit kills performance in Athletes Unlimited play, including her third effort of the season.

  • De La Cruz registered her league-record 29th career double-digit kill performance, including the 15th consecutive match with 10 or more kills … She also posted her 15th match with 15 or more kills.

  • Nomaris Vélez Agosto collected 13 digs in the first three sets, marking her 26th career effort with 10 or more digs to extend her league record.

  • Libero Amanda Benson set a season high with 10 digs through the first three sets … It is the 15th time she has recorded double-digit digs in a match during her two-year Athletes Unlimited career.

  • Natalia Valentin-Anderson posted a season-high 35 assists. It was her 14th career 30-assist match, which ties setter Brie King for most in league history.

  • Outside hitter Brooke Nuneviller recorded the first double-double of her Athletes Unlimited career after accumulating 12 kills with a season-high 10 digs in the first three sets … It also marked her second double-digit kill performance in the opening weekend.


  • #1 – Bethania De La Cruz (Team De La Cruz, +60)
  • #2 – Kaz Brown (Team Valentin-Anderson, +40)
  • #3 – Kayla Caffey (Team De La Cruz, +20)

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