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Player list formed as Athletes Unlimited prepares for next week’s 2nd pro volleyball season

The second Athletes Unlimited professional volleyball season begins Wednesday in Dallas.

This year, the players won’t be in a COVID-protected bubble, nor will American star Jordan Larson be competing, but much else will look the same. Four teams play a weekly round-robin and the rosters of those teams change from week to week, chosen by captains who gained that status based on their individual performances from the week before.

The player who finished second last year, Bethania De La Cruz of the Dominican Republic, returns. So does former Florida standout Aury Cruz, who finished fourth, and the fifth-place finisher, UCLA’s Karsta Lowe. Deja McClendon, the former Penn State standout, also returns after finishing sixth.

NCAA volleyball fans will recognize most of the players, from the veterans, like Cruz, who last played at Florida in 2003, to many recent competitors, like three-time NCAA-champion Morgan Hentz of Stanford, Nebraska’s Lauren Stivrins and Dayton’s Jamie Peterson. Newcomers include Olympians include Carli Lloyd and Alisha Glass Childress.

A complete list of players and the schedule follows.

The first player draft is Sunday and can be seen at 1 p.m. Eastern on YouTube: The captains for the first draft have yet to be determined.

AU doesn’t have coaches, per se, and calls them facilitators. The four this season are Joe Trinsey, Michelle Chatman-Smith, Deitre Collins-Parker and Laurie Corbelli. Trinsey was on staff last year for AU. Chatman-Smith was a standout at Florida. Collins-Parker was a 1988 Olympian, and Corbelli was a 1984 Olympian.

Returning play-by-play announcer Kevin Barnett, the former Pepperdine player and USA Olympian, returns, but his analyst, Salima Rockwell, has since left broadcasting to become the coach at Notre Dame. So Barnett will be joined in the booth by veteran volleyball analyst Heather Cox, the former Pacific player. Katie Carter is also part of the broadcast team.

Larson, by the way, was set to defend her AU title, but then her career took some different turns. First, she was hired as an assistant coach at Texas, a job to which she will return later this spring. That’s because she signed a pro contract to finish this season in Italy.

Bethania De La Cruz during Athletes Unlimited Volleyball media day

2022 Athletes Unlimited Volleyball roster

Ali Bastianelli, MB, Illinois
Amanda Benson, L, Oregon
Tina Boe, MB, Denver
Taylor Bruns, S, South Carolina
Sheilla Castro, OPP, Brazil
Alisha Glass Childress, S, Penn State
Naya Crittendon, OH, Illinois
Aury Cruz, OH, Florida
Bethania De La Cruz, Dominican Republic
Leah Edmond, OH, Kentucky
Erin Fairs, OH, Louisville
Rachel Fara, MB, Colorado
Falyn Fonoimoana, OH, USC
Taylor Fricano, OH, North Carolina
Morgan Hentz, L, Stanford
Cassidy Lichtman, OH, Stanford
Hana Lishman, L, Pepperdine
Carli Lloyd, S, Cal
Karsta Lowe, OH, UCLA
Kaylee Manns, S, Iowa State
Tyler-Marie May, OH, Arizona
Molly McCage, MB, Texas
Deja McClendon, OH, Penn State
Sha’Dare McNeal, OH, Texas
Taylor Morgan, MB, Minnesota
Valerie Nichol, S, Purdue
Jamie Peterson, OH, Dayton
Jenna Rosenthal, MB, Marquette
Taylor Sandbothe, MB, Ohio State
Naomi Santos-Lamb, OH, Florida
Ray Santos, S, Arkansas
Lindsay Stalzer, OH, Bradley
Lauren Stivrins, MB, Nebraska
Ronika Stone, MB, Oregon
Lianna Sybeldon, MB, Washington
Natalia Valentin-Anderson, S, FIU
Nomaris Velez Agosto, L, Inter American
Madison Villines, OH, Kansas
Emmaline Willis, MB, Denver
Erica Wilson, OH, Arizona State
Niki Withers, OH, USC
Yizhi (Eri) Xue, MB, Long Beach State
Action from the final match of the 2021 AU season

2022 Athletes Unlimited Volleyball schedule

All times Eastern
Week 1
March 16 — 6 p.m. AU stream, 8:30 p.m. Bally Sports
March 18 — 7 p.m. FS1, 9:30 p.m. FS2
March 19 — 7 p.m. FS2, 10 p.m. Bally Sports
Week 2
March 23 — 6 p.m. AU stream, 8:30 p.m. Bally Sports
March 25 — 7 p.m. FS2, 9:30 p.m. FS2
March 26 — 7:30 p.m. FS2, 10 p.m. AU stream
Week 3
March 30 — 6 p.m. AU stream, 8:30 p.m. Bally Sports
April 1 — 7 p.m. FS2, 9:30 p.m. FS2
April 2 — 7 p.m. CBS Sports Network, 9 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Week 4
April 6 — 6 p.m. AU stream, 8:30 p.m. AU stream
April 8 — 7 p.m. FS2, 10 p.m. CBS Sports Network
April 9 — 5 p.m. AU stream, 8 p.m. FS2
Week 5
April 14 — 8 p.m. CBS Sports Network, 10 p.m. CBS Sports Network
April 15 — 7 p.m. FS2, 10 p.m. CBS Sports Network
April 16 — 7 p.m. FS2, 10 p.m. CBS Sports Network
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