This is Blair Lambert’s VolleyballMag.com 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 email@example.com
Many of the world’s top professional leagues resumed play this past week as the Olympic qualifying tournaments from each continent have now concluded.
While there were some surprises in the preliminary rounds of the European qualifier, there were no real surprises as to who earned bids to Tokyo (except for Tunisia booking a ticket and denying Egypt). Many countries played matches in the middle of the week as well as the weekend to get the match schedules back on track. While the Russian Super League started back up, Shoji’s Fakel squad have not yet played its first match of 2020. Poland, Slovenia, and Finland had cup competitions take place in the past week, with one American player winning his first professional title.
Three Stars: This list week’s list is comprised of two players who are taking advantage of opportunities in the starting lineup and a player who is hoisting a championship trophy for the first time as a professional volleyball player.
Kyle Dagostino, libero, ACH Volley, Slovenia — The rookie from Stanford was named the Best Libero in the Slovenian Cup. He was very steady in serve receive over the past weekend, leading his team in passing percentages over the two matches. Dagostino passed 78 percent of his passes positively and 56 percent perfectly in the semifinals. Both of those percentages were match highs. That was followed up a day later with a 73 and 53 percent passing performance against OK Maribor in the finals.
Kyle Ensing, opposite, Berlin Recycling Volleys, Germany — Ensing has stepped into the starting lineup with authority to fill the hole left by Ben Patch’s injury. He led the team in scoring in both matches this past week. He started things with 14 kills, three blocks, and three aces. The rookie opposite hit .323 on the night in a win over Netzhoppers on January 16. Ensing scored 16 kills and two aces. He hit .625 attack average from the right side on 24 attempts.
Brenden Sander, outside hitter, Cerrad Enea Czarni Radom, Poland — Sander made a rare start for his Polish club and showed the coach why he made a good decision. He led the team with 24 points on 22 kills and two aces. The former BYU standout hit .563 in the win and was named the MVP of the match. His team defeated Trefl Gdańsk in five sets.
Italy: Aaron Russell led Itas Trentino with 16 points and was named the match’s MVP in a 3-0 victory over Vero Volley Monza on January 16. Russell scored on 14 kills, one block, and an ace while hitting .611. He followed up that performance with a 3-1 win over Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia on January 19 in which he scored 12 points on 10 kills, a block, and an ace. He only behind Luca Vettori’s 14 points and hit .400. TJ DeFalco led all scorers with 22 for Vibo Valentia. DeFalco hit .393 on his way to 19 kills and three blocks. After this weekend Trentino is 11-4 with 33 points and in fourth place. Vibo Valentia has nine points on a 3-10 record and currently is outside the playoff race in 11th position.
Leo Shoes Modena finished 2019 with a pair of losses, but has started the new year strong with wins over Gas Sales Piacenza on January 16 and Globo Banca Popolare del Frusinate Sora on January 19. Matt Anderson scored 14 points on 11 kills and three aces in the sweep of Piacenza. He hit .556 from the left side in the win. Micah Christenson set Modena to a .429 hitting percentage and scored from a block and an ace. Anderson and Christenson both scored 14 and two points again respectively in a three-set win over Sora. Anderson hit .647 in a 12-kill performance to go along with two aces. Christenson set Modena to a .609 mark in attack as well as contributing a kill and a block. Kupono Fey played in the third set of the match, passing two balls for Sora. Modena is in third place with 34 points and an 11-4 record.
Fey played in the second and fourth sets of a 3-2 loss to Consar Ravenna back on January 16. As with the match against Modena, he received two serves in his time on the court. Sora is in last place with one win and five points on the season.
Calzedonia Verona was up 2-1 on Sir Safety Perugia on January 16, but Filippo Lanza and Wilfredo Leon’s 20 points each were too much for Verona to triumph over. Garrett Muagututia scored 15 for Verona on 13 kills, a block, and an ace. Muagututia struggled with four passing errors, but hit an impressive .357. Corey Chavers saw action in the second, fourth, and fifth sets. The rookie from UC Santa Barbara took three attempts in attack and scored his sole point on a block. Jennings Franciskovic did not play for Verona. Piacenza took a four-set match from Verona on January 19. Muagututia finished with nine kills and a block, but he only hit .120 in the defeat. Chavers played in the final set and took two attack attempts, but he did not score any points. Franciskovic did not play. The losses dropped Verona to 6-9 on the season with 18 points. The club currently sits in seventh place.
Poland: Dave Smith and ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Kozle reached the semifinals of the Polish Cup with a 3-0 win over BBTS Bielsko-Biala on January 15. Smith did not play for ZAKSA. He started the second and fourth sets for ZAKSA in a 3-1 defeat to MKS Będzin. He came off the bench in the first and third sets, finishing with nine points from six kills and three blocks. Smith hit .750 without committing an error in attack. That loss dropped ZAKSA to 12-2 with 36 points and behind VERVA Warsaw in second place.
Brenden Sander had a breakout performance for Cerrad Enea Czarni Radom on January 19 in a 3-2 win over Trefl Gdańsk. Sander was the MVP of the match, leading the way with 22 kills and two aces. Sander hit .563 in the win. That victory moves the club to 6-8 on the year and on the cusp of playoff contention in ninth place. Its 18 points are just one shy of Ślepsk Malow Suwałki, who has played one more match on the season and sits at 7-8.
Josh Tuaniga squared off against another American setter in Kawika Shoji on January 17 when Ślepsk Malow Suwałki beat Asseco Resovia Rzeszów in four sets. Tuaniga set Suwałki to a .450 attack average in addition to scoring on an ace, a block, and two kills. Shoji scored on a kill and an ace while setting Resovia to a .388 hitting percentage. As mentioned in the paragraph prior, Suwałki is currently in eighth position, Resovia is in 11th position with a 5-9 record and 16 points.
Dustin Watten passed 50 percent of his receptions positively and 22 percent perfectly for GKS Katowice in a 3-0 defeat to PGE Skra Bełchatów on January 19. Katowice has a 5-9 record with 18 points. It currently is in tenth place behind Sander’s Czarni Radom and just in front of Shoji’s Resovia.
France: Max Chamberlain was used as a serving substitute in the third set for Tourcoing in its 3-1 victory over Toulouse on January 18. He attempted and completed two serves without an error or an ace. Tourcoing is in fifth place with 9-6 record and 24 points.
Price Jarman was used as a substitute in the first set for Tours and attempted one attack in a 3-1 win over Rennes on January 18. Tours has an 11-4 record with 34 points and is in second place behind Rennes. The margin between the two teams is just one win and three points.
Poitiers beat Paris in straight sets on January 18. Micah Ma’a scored six points on one kill, two blocks, and a match-high three aces in the win. Ma’a also set Poitiers to a .394 hitting percentage. That win put Poitiers in ninth position with a 6-9 record and 19 points.
Cannes dropped a match to Arago de Sete in four sets and fell to 11th place on January 18. Kyle Russell led Cannes with 14 points from 12 kills, one block, and one ace. The opposite from UC Irvine hit .097 in the defeat. Matt West set for Cannes in the first three sets. He set his team to a .247 hitting attack average. West also led his team with two aces to go with a kill. Cannes is 6-9 with 17 points.
Stahl scored eight points for Chaumont in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Rennes on December 21. His points came by way of five kills, two blocks, and an ace. Stahl hit .273 in the defeat.
Mitch Stahl scored on two kills, two blocks, and two aces in Chaumont’s 3-0 defeat to Nantes Reze on January 18. His two kills came accompanied with two errors, and he finished with a .000 hitting percentage. That loss kept Chaumont in fourth place with an 8-7 record and 25 points. It is just one point ahead of Tourcoing after its over Toulouse.
Germany: Karl Apfelbach scored 19 points for TV Rottenburg, but it still lost in four sets to Hypo Tirol AlpenVolleys Unterhaching on January 15. Apfelbach hit .333 on his way to 19 kills in the defeat. Mitch Penning scored three points on two kills and a block with a .286 attack average.
SVG Lüneburg claimed a four-set win over Volleyball Bisons Bühl on January 15. Michael Michelau came off the bench in the third set and started the fourth set for Lüneburg. He scored five points on three kills and two aces with a .100 attack average. Leo Durkin started at setter for Lüneburg and set his club to a .246 hitting percentage to go along with an ace. Greg Petty started for Bühl and led the team with 19 points. Petty finished with 17 kills and two aces while hitting .225.
The Berlin Recycling Volleys dropped a point but claimed a win over Netzhoppers KW-Bestensee in five sets on January 16. Kyle Ensing led Berlin with 14 kills, three blocks, and three aces. The rookie opposite hit .323 on the night. Jeff Jendryk scored 16 points in the middle on 12 kills, three blocks, and an ace. The middle blocker from Loyola hit an impressive .733. Cody Kessel started at outside hitter and finished with 13 kills and a block with a .458 hitting percentage. JT Hatch started the first two sets at the other outside hitter position and came off the bench in the remaining sets. Hatch put away four kills and hit .154. Patch was not in the lineup for Berlin, still nursing an injury from the end of 2019.
Helios Grizzlys Giesen swept WWK Volleys Herrsching on January 16 behind 14 points from Michael Wexter and 12 from David Wieczorek. Wexter scored on 12 kills, a block, and an ace with a .364 attack average. Wieczorek hit .350 on his way to nine kills, two blocks, and an ace. Jalen Penrose led the match with 16 points for Herrsching. His points came on 13 kills and three aces while hitting .200 from the right side.
SVG Lüneburg secured its second win of 2020 with a 3-1 victory over TV Rottenburg on January 18. Durkin set Lüneburg to a .284 hitting percentage and scored two points of his own (a block and an ace). Michelau came off of the bench in the second set but did not register any points. Apfelbach started the first two sets for Rottenburg. He also came off the bench in the third set. Apfelbach hit .000, putting away three kills to go with a block. Penning scored eight in the middle for Rottenburg on six kills and two blocks. He had six kills on seven attempts in attack without an error and posted a .857 hitting percentage. Lüneburg is currently in fourth place with a 9-4 record and 24 points. Rottenburg is currently in eighth place with a 5-8 record and 15 points.
VfB Friedrichshafen beat Volleyball Bisons Bühl in three sets on January 18 in its only match of the week. Joe Worsley set Friedrichshafen to a .443 hitting percentage. Brendan Schmidt scored seven points in the middle on four kills and three blocks. Schmidt hit .571 without committing an attack error on the night. Petty registered nine kills and a block for Bühl while hitting .316 from the left side. Friedrichshafen is currently in third place, but it has played one match less than the team above it in the standings. Friedrichshafen boasts a 9-3 record with 28 points. It is just one point behind Hypo Tirol. Bühl is in 11th position with a 4-9 record and nine points. It is currently in danger of being relegated out of the Bundesliga.
Patch was in uniform and on the bench for Berlin on January 19 for its match against Helios Grizzlys Giesen, but did not see play in a 3-0 sweep. Ensing got the start at opposite, finishing with 16 kills and two aces. He posted an astounding .625 attack average from the right side on 24 attempts. Jendrk scored seven points in the middle. He finished with six kills and a block while hitting .625. Kessel started at outside hitter again, finishing with six kills and a block. He hit .111 on the night. Wexter scored seven points for Giesen on six kills and an ace. The rookie opposite from Pepperdine hit .174. Wieczorek hit .091, putting away four kills and an ace. Berlin is currently on top of the standings with a perfect 14-0 record and 38 points. Giesen is 3-10 with 11 points and is just out of the relegation zone in 10th position.
Penrose led Herrsching with 16 points, but his club still fell to Hypo Tirol AlpenVolleys Unterhaching in four sets on January 20. Penrose scored on 14 kills, a block, and an ace with a .241 hitting percentage. Herrsching is in sixth place with a 6-7 record and 18 points. Hypo Tirol is in second place with a 9-4 record and 29 points.
Belgium: Knack Roeselare started 202 with a win over Greenyard Maaseik in straight sets on January 18. Joe Norman did not play for Roeselare. That win keeps Roeselare in second place with a 9-2 record and 26 points, just two points ahead of Maaseik.
Czech Republic: Just before the end of the year, Odolena Voda beat Fatra Zlín in straight sets. Kevin Gear scored seven points on six kills and a block. He hit .667 on the night.
Matt August scored 12 points in the middle for Brno in a 3-2 victory over České Budějovice on January 18. August scored on 10 kills and two blocks. He hit .563 with only a single error in attack. That win puts Brno in fourth place with 29 points and a 10-4 record.
Gear scored five points for Odolena Voda in a 3-0 defeat to Praha on January 18. He hit .400 and finished with three kills and two blocks. Odolena Voda is in seventh position with an 8-7 record and 20 points.
Finland: Tommy Carmody came off the bench in the first set and played the rest of the way for the Vantaa Ducks on January 8. He scored 12 points in the middle in a 3-1 defeat to Kokkolan Tiikerit. His points came on 10 kills, a block, and an ace. The middle blocker from Pacific and Pepperdine hit .421 on the night.
On January 9, Team Lakkapää dropped a four-set decision to Etta Oulu. Ryan Manoogian passed 58 percent positive receptions and 8 percent perfectly.
Savo Volley defeated Raison Loimu in four sets on January 10. Josh Ayzenberg passed 33 percent of his receptions positively and 20 percent perfectly for Savo. Avery Aylsworth passed 50 percent of his six receptions positively and 33 percent were rated as perfect for Raison Loimu. Blake Leeson scored six points in the middle on four kills and two blocks. He hit .364 in the defeat.
Kyle Foley started the first two sets at setter for Karelian Hurmos in a 3-0 defeat to Hurrikaani Loimaa on January 11. He set Hurmos to a .190 hitting percentage during his two sets on the court. He also contributed a block and a kill.
Ayzenberg passed 50 percent positively and 21 percent perfectly for Savo Volley in a 3-0 defeat of Akaa Volley on January 11th.
Foley did not play for Karelian Hurmos in a 3-2 win over Kokkolan Tiikerit on January 14. Hurmos is 6-16 with 16 points and is in eighth place.
Manoogian passed 48 percent of his receptions positively and 33 percent perfectly in a 3-1 loss to Etta Oulu. Team Lakkapää is in last place with a 1-21 record and seven points.
Savo Volley beat VaLePa in five sets on January 15. Ayzenberg put forth a 50 and 36 percent passing performance in the win. Savo is currently in second place with a 19-3 record and 56 points.
Raison Loimu defeated the Vantaa Ducks in five sets on January 16. Leeson scored nine points in the middle for Loimu on seven kills, one block, and one ace. He hit .583 with no attack errors. Aylsworth passed 46 percent of his receptions positively and 31 percent perfectly. Tommy Carmody scored 14 points for the Vantaa Ducks. He hit .304 on 12 kills, to go with a block and an ace. Loimu is in sixth place with an 8-13 record and 22 points. The Vantaa Ducks are 5-19 with 16 points. The club currently sits in ninth place.
Ayzenberg passed 42 percent positive receptions and 33 percent perfect in a 3-0 defeat to VaLePa in the finals of the Finnish Cup on January 19.
Slovenia: It was a big weekend for Kyle Dagostino and ACH Volley. The perennial powerhouse in Slovenia won a pair of matches to hoist the Slovienian Cup on January 19. The weekend started with a sweep of HišaNaKolesihTriglav in the semifinals on January 18. Dagostino passed 78 percent of his passes positively and 56 percent perfectly. Both of those figures were match-highs. He followed that up a day later with a 73 and 53 percent passing performance against OK Maribor in the finals. That resulted in a 3-1 victory for ACH and a Best Libero award for Dagostino.
Spain: Nick Amado did not play for Unicaja Costa de Almería in a 3-1 victory over Vecindario ACE GC on January 11.
Arenal Emevé fell to Urbia Voley Palma in straight sets on January 18. Matthew Knigge scored eight points in the middle for Arenal Emevé. He finished with five kills, two blocks, and one ace. He uncharacteristically committed four attack errors for a .071 hitting percentage. Arenal Emevé is currently in seventh position on the table with an 8-5 record and 20 points.
Unicaja Costa de Almería remained in first place with a 3-0 sweep of Ushuaïa Ibiza Voley on January 18. Amado got the start in the middle for Almería and scored four points. The rookie from Long Beach State put away three kills, one block, and hit .429 on the night. Almería is 13-1 with 36 points.
Switzerland: Grayson Overman scored 10 points in the middle for TSV Jona Volleyball in a 3-2 defeat to Lindaren Volley Luzern on January 19. He registered four points in attack, contributed two blocks and four aces from the service line. Mitch Beal started the first two sets and came off the bench in the tiebreak. He scored 10 on seven kills and three aces. Jona have a 5-9 record with 16 points and currently sits in seventh place in the standings.
Matt Yoshimoto started the first two sets at setter for Lindaren Volley Amriswil on January 18 in a four-set defeat to Chenois Geneve Volleyball. He set Amriswil to a .461 attack average in those first two sets. Yoshimoto also chipped in a block in the losing effort. Amriswil is currently in first place with a 12-1 record and 34 points.
Berlin Recycling Volleys vs. Hypo Tirol AlpenVolleys Unterhaching, Germany, January 23 — The top two teams in the standings will be taking the court in the middle of the week in Berlin. Will Patch be back in the lineup? Will Ensing continue his dominant form from the right side? Sergey Grankin, former setter of the Russian national team, has Berlin playing impressive volleyball. Berlin looks untouchable in Germany, and this is a chance for the club to make another statement about its Bundesliga dominance.
Allianz Milan vs. Itas Trentino, Italy, January 22 — The quarterfinals of the Italian Cup are usually without suspense, but this match could provide excitement. Nimir Abdel-Aziz has been on a tear in 2020, and led Milan to handing Lube Civitanova its first loss of the SuperLega season. Milan and Trentino both have identical 11-4 records and 33 points in the standings. Trentino has more guns (Russell has been solid since the new year began), but Nimir is possibly the most dynamic player on the court.