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AU Volleyball in Week 3: Sheilla Castro having a breakout season

Sheilla Castro rises to block a shot for Team De La Cruz. (Jade Hewitt/Athletes Unlimited)

Two weeks into Athletes Unlimited’s Volleyball season, the action is delivering on its promise. Week 3 begins Wednesday night amid continued shifts atop the leaderboard.

Bethania De La Cruz moved into first place with 1,779 total points, while last week’s leader, Dani Drews, fell to third wth 1,413 points. In between them is Karsta Lowe, who finished fifth last season, with 1,455 points. Sheilla Castro has moved into fourth with 1,319 points.

The competition remains tight atop the leaderboard, albeit a little less so than in Week 2. A few new faces have moved into the top 10, and others have simply shifted or remained in place. While De La Cruz holds a firm lead of 324 points, a mere 212 points separates fifth and 10th place.

Just Women’s Sports has a few storylines to follow as the competition resumes Wednesday.

Bethania De La Cruz secures the top spot

Bethania De La Cruz took command of the leaderboard in Week 2, though her lead is by no means safe.

De La Cruz showcased her draft savvy in Week 2, as her team helped her set the single-match kills record during their loss Friday to Team Stivrins. With 27 kills in that game, De La Cruz is now third in the league with 87 through the first two weeks of the season. Karsta Lowe is first with 94. The outside hitter also has 66 digs on the season.

Can anyone catch De La Cruz in Week 3? While it seems unlikely that she would surrender her lead given how dominant she’s looked through two weeks of play, a bad game or two could put any one of the league’s top players right back in the mix.

De La Cruz also has extra motivation on her side, looking to take care of unfinished business after finishing as runner-up to AU champion Jordan Larson last season.

The Sheilla Castro show

For the first time in her Athletes Unlimited career, Sheilla Castro is a captain.

Through just two weeks, Castro has made major improvements over last season. On Saturday, the opposite hitter posted a career-high 17 kills against Team Drews for a season-high 329 points in a single game. She added to her 654 total points in Week 1 with 653 more in Week 2.

Castro’s surge should not come as a surprise. A member of the Brazilian national team, she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and has won eight championships while playing overseas in Brazil, Turkey and Italy.

Castro is on pace to improve upon last season’s performance by nearly 1,000 points, and if she keeps it up, she could accomplish even more than that.

Into the top 10

Two of the biggest stars in Week 2, Leah Edmond and Nomaris Vélez Agosto also entered the top 10.

Edmond recorded 200-plus points in the final two games of the week. Her best performance came Saturday, when she posted a career-high 19 kills against Team Valentin-Anderson. As she steadily climbs, Edmond already has amassed nearly half of her point total from last year. The outside hitter currently sits in eighth place, 25 points behind seventh place and fewer than 200 points behind fourth-place captain Sheilla Castro.

Vélez Agosto, the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, has also shown improvements from last season. On Wednesday against Team Valentin-Anderson, she recorded a career-high 18 digs for Team De La Cruz.

Vélez Agosto began last season on a tear and tapered off toward the end. Her consistency will be an X-factor in the last three weeks of this AU season.

Emma Hruby is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.