The months leading up to the Tokyo Olympics will bring a new experience for Bethania De La Cruz as the 33-year-old Dominican outside hitter has announced she’ll join the recently-created Athletes Unlimited Volleyball League in the United States in 2021.
A staple for the Caribbean team over the last 15 years, De La Cruz is the newest addition to the league, which will feature seven other Olympians including Brazilian Sheilla Castro, American Jordan Larson and Puerto Rican Aurea Cruz.
“I’m very excited for this league because for me new things are a challenge,” she said. “I believe the league in the USA will provide good preparation prior to the summer competitions with my national team and the Olympic Games. Even though it’s a new format that I haven’t experienced before, I believe that the season will be fun and successful – I’ve got a lot of respect for the players from the USA and I think that playing by their side will give me a lot of experience.”
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The 33-year-old outside hitter has played in her home country, Puerto Rico, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Russia, Italy and Indonesia winning national titles in five of those countries.
The veteran has also had a decorated career with the Dominican national team, securing gold medals at the 2019 Pan American Games, the 2009 and 2019 NORCECA Championships and the 2008 and 2016 Pan American Cups. She represented her country at the London 2012 Olympics and helped qualify the team for the Tokyo Games.
De La Cruz has also earned notable individual awards during her career, including the best scorer and best server prizes at the 2011 FIVB World Cup, the MVP, best server and best outside hitter awards at the 2020 NORCECA Olympic qualification tournament and the best outside hitter of the 2014-2015 European Champions League.
The tournament in the USA will be played from February 26 to April 4, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee, and will feature a unique format. The league will feature 44 players forming new teams every weekend and earning points based on team wins and individual performances. At the end of the tournament, one athlete will be crowned champion, not a team.
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