MESA, Arizona — It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a team led by libero Morgan Hentz put together a strong defensive effort. But, when you add one of the top offensive players in Athletes Unlimited Volleyball history, it gives fans the opportunity to potentially see some history in the making.
And while Team Hentz was unable to break the league record for largest margin of victory in a single match, the squad flirted with the distinction during its 76-51 victory over Team Linnehan to begin Week Two action on Friday night at Legacy Park.
Outside hitter Bethania De La Cruz, who is playing just her fourth career match without being a captain, asserted her dominance on the offensive end with 20 kills and a .348 hitting percentage to secure MVP 1 honors. The reigning Athletes Unlimited Volleyball champion ended the night with her 23rd career Match MVP honor and a season-high 430 leaderboard points.
Hentz, meanwhile, anchored the squad’s defensive efforts with 17 digs to claim the match’s MVP 2 commendation. Hentz, who also chipped in two assists, posted her second consecutive 300-point performance after compiling 305 leaderboard points.
Setter Natalia Valentin-Anderson added a season-high 43 assists while setting the league single-match record with five service aces in the win for Team Hentz, which fashioned a .322 hitting percentage.
Setter Taylor Bruns Tegenrot received MVP 3 honors in the loss for Team Linnehan after notching 10 assists with four digs. Setter Nootsara Tomkom added a double-double of 16 assists and 10 digs.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Team Hentz sprinted to a 9-3 lead in the opening set and never trailed en route to a 25-11 victory as De La Cruz collected five kills. Team Hentz used another fast start in the middle set to take a 25-16 advantage and extend its match cushion to 50-27. Team Linnehan made a late push in the third set before Team Hentz secured the match sweep with a 26-24 verdict.
Hentz and De La Cruz used the three-set sweep to vault into the top of the leaderboard in first and second places, respectively. Hentz holds the overall lead with 1,186 points, but De La Cruz stands just 27 points behind pending the result of the match between Team Edmond and Team Hilley on Friday night.
Team Hentz and Team Linnehan combined to post nine service aces in Friday’s Week Two opener, increasing the league’s season total to 37 aces through seven matches … Aspiration is committed to planting 10 trees for every service ace this season as part of its ‘Aspiration Aces’ initiative.
Team Hentz’s 25-point margin of the victory marked the second-largest win in league history … Team Edmond blasted Team Nootsara by a 75-44 margin in the first match of Monday’s doubleheader to set the mark.
Team Hentz’s 50-27 advantage through two sets established a new Athletes Unlimited Volleyball record for largest margin through the first two sets … Team Edmond set the mark last Monday with a 50-30 cushion against Team Nootsara in its Week One finale.
Team Linnehan’s 11 points in the first set are tied for the second-lowest total in a set in league history … In addition, the 11 points are the fewest scored by a team in the first set of a match in league history … The previous lowest point total in the first set belonged to Team King, which was limited to 12 points against Team Sybeldon on February 27, 2021.
Valentin-Anderson surpassed the league’s single-match record with her five service aces on Friday night … De La Cruz held the previous single-match standard with four aces against Team Lowe on April 2, 2022, and against Team Sheilla on April 6, 2022.
De La Cruz now owns five career matches with 400 or more leaderboard points, including five of the top seven single-match totals in league history … Her 430 points are tied for sixth-highest point total in the league’s record book.
De La Cruz also extended her league record by reaching 300 or more leaderboard points for the 17th time in her 34-match career … She is one of three players in league history with 10 or more matches with 300 or more points.
Hentz authored her fourth career 300-point performance with 305 points on Friday night, including her second 300-point output this season … She had 351 points against Team Nootsara in last Monday’s Week One finale.
Hentz now has 18 matches with 10 or more digs in her Athletes Unlimited career, including her league-leading fourth this season … She ranks second in league history for most double-digit dig matches.
Valentin-Anderson reached the 300-point mark for the second time in her Athletes Unlimited career … The former FIU star had 377 points against Team De La Cruz on April 8, 2022.
Valentin-Anderson tallied 40 or more assists for the fifth time in her Athletes Unlimited career after her 43-assist performance … Her five 40-assist efforts are tied with Brie King for second in league history.
Tomkom posted her 11th career double-double with her 16 assists and 10 digs, including the second double-double this season … She opened the season with 40 assists and 10 digs against Team Valentin-Anderson last Friday.
De La Cruz extended her league record by posting 20 or more kills for the fifth time in her Athletes Unlimited career … She also has 15 career matches with 15 or more kills and has reached double figures in kills in 30-of-34 matches, which are both the most in league history.
Libero Kendall White authored her third consecutive double-digit dig performance after notching 11 digs for Team Linnehan on Friday night.
Opposite Saskia Hippe, who finished with a season-high 266 leaderboard points, posted 10 digs for her second double-digit effort of the season.
Outside hitter Brooke Nuneviller finished with a season-high 12 digs, marking her second consecutive double-digit dig performance.
- #1 – Bethania De La Cruz (Team Hentz, +60)
- #2 – Morgan Hentz (Team Hentz, +40)
- #3 – Taylor Bruns Tegenrot (Team Linnehan, +20)
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© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
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