This is Blair Lambert’s weekly men’s professional volleyball report, featuring Americans around the world. Got a note about a player or a comment for Blair? Email him at

This edition of the notebook features former Stanford setter James Shaw, who has played with Kioene Padova, Sir Safety Perugia, and for the USA national team. There is also an update on Garrett Muagututia, a former outside hitter on the USA national team who was instrumental in winning the 2014 FIVB World League. We also have news coming out of India about the country’s new professional league, and recaps of Americans competing in Italy, Russia, Germany and Belgium. League play in many other countries is on hiatus until later in January.

James Shaw: This past June 14 Shaw announced on his personal blog that he was not going to play professionally this season. Instead he was going to head back to Stanford to finish his undergraduate degree. Shaw had just finished a successful season with Sir Safety Perugia, winning the Coppa Italia, Italian SuperLega, and claimed a bronze medal in the CEV Champions League while serving as the backup to Luciano DeCecco. He said in the blog that he was still working to represent the USA at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Then, this past Friday in another post on his personal blog, Shaw said he has graduated from Stanford and would resume his professional volleyball career. What’s more, he said he will pursue a career as an opposite because he feels it will be the best way for him to positively influence the national team, provide better opportunities to find jobs in professional leagues, and he enjoys attacking more than setting.

At Stanford, Shaw was a three-time All-American, two-time AVCA All-American, MPSF player of the year, and the Lloy Ball Award recipient for the best setter in college volleyball.

Shaw spent some time at outside hitter at Stanford and also played the opposite position for the USA at the 2018 Pan Am Cup. He made his first appearance in the last match of pool play in the second set against Puerto Rico, scoring nine points. Shaw started the next two matches at opposite, scoring 23 points against the Dominican Republic in a 3-0 victory, and he scored 21 more in a seventh-place match against Chile in another 3-0 victory. His 53 points were the ninth-best in the entire tournament. At this point there has been no news yet linking Shaw with a club for the rest of the season.

Garrett Muagututia: The outside hitter from UC Irvine found himself a new club for 2019. After playing for Sporting CP in Lisbon, Portugal, he signed with PAOK Thessaloniki in Greece this past Saturday. PAOK won the Hellenic Volleyball League on three consecutive occasions from 2015 to 2017 before finishing in second position last year and are currently 7-2 this season.

India: Six teams will take the court in February for the country’s new professional league. In a draft earlier in December, each team picked a foreign player and three American players formerly on the national team were in that number. David Lee will be playing for the Kochi Blue Spikers, Paul Lotman will be with the Calicut Heroes, and Carson Clark will suit up with the Black Hawks Hyderabad.

Italy: Micah Christenson picked up two victories without Ivan Zaytsev in the lineup this week after Zaytsev took a ball to his eye on December 23 against Trentino. On December 26, Azimut Leo Shoes Modena defeated Globo Banca Popolare del Frusinate Sora in five sets. Christenson set the team to a .382 hitting percentage and contributed four points on a block and three aces. Max Holt scored 10 points on nine kills and a block in three and a half sets of action. Bartosz Bednorz of Poland led Modena with 24 points from 18 kills, four blocks, and two aces. Kupono Fey scored nine points for Sora on six kills, one block, and two aces while leading his team in serve receive with 50 percent of his receptions being rated as positive.

Modena followed up the disappointing performance against Sora with a commanding 3-0 win over BCC Castellana Grotte. Christenson set Modena to an astounding .585 attack average. Holt scored six points on five kills and an ace with an .833 hitting percentage and no attack errors. Giulio Pinali, the starting opposite due to Zaytsev’s absence, scored 17 from 13 kills, three blocks, and two aces while hitting .619. Modena is still in fourth place heading into 2019.

Aaron Russell led Itas Trentino with 16 points in a 3-1 victory over Emmas Villa Siena. He scored on 13 kills, 2 blocks, and a service ace. Russell hit .391 while helping his team in serve receive with 55 percent of his passes being positive and 38 percent rated as perfect. Jenia Grebennikov led Trentino in serve receive with 77 percent positive and 38 percent perfect passes. Uros Kovacevic contributed 15 points and Srecko Lisinac chipped in 14 from the middle.

Russell did not play for Trentino in a 3-0 sweep of Sora. He got a rest break in order to manage the knee injury suffered at the FIVB Club World Championships. Vettori led the way for Trentino with 13 kills, two blocks, and two aces while hitting .722 from the opposite position. Srecko Lisinac hit .780 in the middle to finish with nine kills and 3 aces. Kupono Fey led Sora in serve receive again with 64 percent positive receptions and 41 percent perfect passes. He also scored four points on four kills. Trentino is in second place, but is just one point behind Sir Safety Perugia after its five-set hiccup against Calzedonia Verona.

Perugia started the week fine with a 3-0 win over Top Volley Latina. Jonah Seif was used as a substitute in the third set. Wilfredo Leon posted 15 points on 11 kills, two blocks, and two aces. Aleksandar Atanaisjevic registered 14 kills, two blocks, and three aces.

Verona gave Perugia all it could handle on Sunday. Perugia needed the tiebreak to secure the victory but lost a point in the standings. Leon hit .441 on his way to 27 points on 20 kills, two blocks, and five aces. Atanasijevic scored 22 from 18 kills, one block, and three aces with a .297 attack average. Jonah Seif was used as a substitute in every set but the fourth and finished with a block. Matey Kaziyski led Verona with 19 points and Stephen Boyer contributed 17.

Lube Civitanova went a perfect 6-0 in sets this week. It first pulled off a sweep over Kioene Padova. Brenden Sander was used as a substitute in the final set and did not score a point. Yoandy Leal led Lube with 15 points followed by 10 from Osmany Juantorena.

Lube followed that up with another sweep over Consar Ravenna. Osmany Juantorena and Yoandy Leal both finished the match with 14 points each. Tsvetan Sokolov was right behind on 13 points. Sander was not utilized by Lube, who goes into 2019 in third place.

Russia: Matt Anderson scored 19 points on 17 kills, a block, and an ace for Zenit Kazan in a 3-0 sweep of Gazprom-Yugra. He posted a .615 attack average from the left side. Maxim Mikhailov led the way with 22 points from 18 kills, one block, and three aces while hitting .419. Anderson was not used in Zenit Kazan’s sweep over Yaroslavich. Earvin N’Gapeth led Kazan with 11 points from eight kills and three aces.

Fakel Novy Urengoy dropped down to third place with a 3-2 defeat to Belogorie Belgorod. Erik Shoji led the team in serve receive, passing 65 percent of his passes positively and 40 percent perfectly. Fakel bounced back to beat Nova Novokuibyshevsk but dropped another point by going five sets. Shoji passed 61 percent of his receptions positively and 39 percent perfectly. Dmitry Volkov led Fakel with 24 points and Egor Kliuka chipped in 20.

Germany: The Berlin Recycling Volleys beat TV Rottenburg in a sweep on December 29th. Kyle Russell led Berlin with 14 points on 13 kills, one block, and a .333 hitting percentage. Dustin Watten led Berlin with 45 percent of his passes being classified as positive. Jeff Jendryk and Ben Patch did not play. Mitch Penning scored six points in the middle for Rotenburg on four kills and two blocks.

Cody Kessel led the match for SVG Lüneburg with 17 points in a 3-0 sweep of WWK Volleys Herrsching. Kessel scored from 12 kills, four blocks and an ace with a .419 attack average while leading his team in serve receive with 52 percent of his passes being rated as perfect. Griffin Shields scored 12 points at opposite for Herrsching on 11 kills and an ace while hitting .125.

Hypo Tirol AlpenVolleys Unterhaching beat SWD powervolleys Duren 3-1 to remain in first place. Matthew Pollock started the match in the middle for Unterhaching and scored two points on two kills in two sets of action. Daniel Ford was not used by Buhl in the defeat.

Jake Arnitz was not used by Volleyball Bisons Buhl in a 3-1 decision over Helios Grizzlys Giesen. Antwain Aguilard was used as a substitute in the middle of Giesen in the first, second, and fourth sets. He finished the match with two kills in two swings.

Belgium: Sam Holt started and played in the first three sets of Knack Roeselare’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of Lindemans Aalst in the finals of the EuroMillions Volleyleague Cup. He scored eight points on eight kills in the defeat.

Looking Ahead
Italy: Itas Trentino vs. Sir Safety Perugia, January 6 — With many leagues still on the winter break, this behemoth of a match between the top two teams in Italy is all that any volleyball fan needs to pay attention to this weekend.

Trentino is the reigning world champion and the favorite to win the CEV Cup. Perugia is at the top of the SuperLega by one point and is one of the favorites to win the CEV Champions League. Trentino is at the top of the league in kills per set and blocks per set. Perugia is the best in the league in aces per set behind Wilfredo Leon and Aleksandar Atanasijevic: the two top servers in the league respectively. Srecko Lisinac from Trentino is the most efficient attacker in Italy at the moment, and Wilfredo Leon is the most efficient outside attacker. Trentino has four players in the top-ten of attack efficiency: Lisinac (first), Kovacevic (fourth), Russell (seventh), Vettori (eighth). In addition to Leon (second), Atanasijevic is the other top-10 attacker for Perugia at ninth. Jenia Grebennikov of Trentino is the top-rated passer in the league.

Perugia won the last match between these teams in four sets, but they are coming off of a close call with Verona.


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