Cody Kessel, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter from Colorado Springs, just finished his third season at SVG Lüneburg in the German Bundesliga and is moving to Berlin.
Kessel was a second-team AVCA All-American at Princeton, the first player from the Ivy League school to earn first- or second- team honors. During his senior season he ranked third in the NCAA in points per set at 5.16. After college he played his rookie season in Switzerland with TV Schoenwerd in 2016 before making the move to Germany.
This past season his club finished in fourth place and defeated United Volleys Frankfurt 2-1 in the quarterfinal playoff series before being swept 3-0 by VfB Friedrichshafen in the semifinals.
Kessel scored 286 points at 3.4 points per set in the regular season, which was ninth-best in the German Bundesliga. His points came on 239 kills, 13 aces, and 34 blocks.
His solid play as an outside hitter garnered the attention of the Berlin Recycling Volleys, winners of seven of the last eight German Bundesliga titles and 10 overall. After playing in front of crowds of 800 at Lüneburg, Kessel is moving to a club that has the highest attendance in Europe at 4,923 fans per match (according to surlatouche.fr).
We caught up with Kessel to see hear about his move to Berlin, the challenges he has faced as a professional volleyball player, and his plans for the summer.
VBM: How do you sum up your season and time in Lüneburg?
CK: Lüneburg was an incredible environment for volleyball and personal growth. I learned so much from my teammates, coaching staff (especially Stefan Hübner), and the community. There is a special culture and set of values that drive the club. For the 2018-19 season, we had a great group where 11 out of 12 guys stayed on from the previous year. So we were able to channel all of that into some great performances on the court. I cherish my time and the relationships I built there.
VBM: How did the move to Berlin come about?
CK: After I made the decision to continue my playing career, my agent Chiara Castagnetti helped me look at different options, and the opportunity to play in Berlin was too good to pass up. It is a great chance for me to challenge myself at an elite club known for its tradition of excellence and success.
VBM: What are you looking forward to and challenges you anticipate with your new club?
CK: I am looking forward to contributing to a world-class team. I am looking forward to putting in many months of hard work to have success in not only the German League and German Cup, but also in the Champions League. Certainly, there will be greater expectations and challenges, but I welcome them.
VBM: Have you talked with Patch about what to expect?
CK: Yes, I’ve talked with Ben and a number of Berlin alumni about the club and a bit about what to expect.
VBM: What are some ways your game has developed since you left Princeton?
CK: The most glaring thing is that I played primarily opposite at Princeton and have since transitioned to being an outside hitter. But I have been able to build upon the foundation I developed at Princeton and before as a grass, beach, and indoor player in Colorado, and have improved all parts of my game: Mentally, physically, technically, and more.
VBM: What will your summer training look like?
CK: I spent some time training with Team USA in Anaheim, California, and just returned from the 2019 Pan American Cup in Colima, Mexico. The rest of the summer I will be with friends and family, as well as preparing my body and mind to arrive in the best possible shape for the Berlin preseason.
VBM: What are your professional goals as you move forward?
CK: My professional goal is to become the best player I can be.
VBM: What has been the biggest challenge of your professional career?
CK: There have been many. My first year in Switzerland was particularly challenging because we were underperforming as a team and I suffered a severe ankle injury in January that kept me out for the four remaining months of the season. The life of a professional athlete overseas is full of challenges but I’m lucky to have an incredible support system, as well as the mental toughness to focus on the things that are in my control.