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

The CEV Champions League picked up a full schedule of matches this week. While one team has qualified for the quarterfinals, ensuring at least one American player will be taking part in the playoffs, we all got a clearer view of what teams will advance out of the group stage. There was also a full slate of matches in many of the domestic leagues. While the Russian Super League was in action, Erik Shoji’s team had a bye this past weekend.

Three Stars: There is a player who is back on this list after appearing last week. He is running such an efficient offense in the best league in the world at the moment and deserves to be recognized yet again. There is another familiar face who continues to shine in the Champions League and in the German Bundesliga. Another player had a tremendous performance for a team struggling to find wins.

Micah Christenson, setter, Leo Shoes Modena, Italy — Christenson continues to show why he is one of the best setters in the world. He set Modena to hitting percentages of .453 and .478 in two matches this week. This was in addition to producing three aces against Top Volley Cisterna. He helped get his team one step closer to the quarterfinals of the CEV Cup, and he has led an offense that has remained unbeaten in 2020.

Kyle Russell, opposite, Cannes, France — Russell only played in and lost one match this past week, but his offensive production was quite impressive. The opposite from UC Irvine scored 25 points in a five-set defeat. His 22 kills came by way of a .517 hitting percentage to go along with two blocks and a service ace…

Jeff Jendryk, middle blocker, Berlin Recycling Volleys, Germany — Jendryk continues to produce the point totals of a pin-hitter as a middle blocker. He scored 16 points against one of Europe’s best teams in Fakel Novy Urengoy. He led the match with four blocks and hit .617 on his way to 12 kills. He scored three points per set in a sweep of TV Rottenburg later in the week. Jendryk hit .500 to earn five kills, and scored three points from the service line.

Champions League Group A: Itas Trentino solidified itself in second place with a 3-1 victory over Fenerbahce Istanbul on January 30. Aaron Russell was back in the starting lineup for Trentino after resting up a nagging injury. He finished with seven kills and five errors to hit .105. Russell also added two blocks to finish with nine points. Trentino was led by Srecko Lisinac’s 20 points in the middle, and Luca Vettori’s 21 from the right side. That win puts Trentino at 3-1 with 8 points. Lube Civitanova, who beat Ceske Budejovice in four sets, leads the pool at 4-0 with a perfect 12 points.

Champions League Group B: Fakel Novy Urengoy of Russia came back from an 0-2 deficit to beat the Berlin Recycling Volleys on the road on January 28. Erik Shoij passed 45 percent of his serve receptions positively and 18 percent were classified as perfect for Fakel. Ben Patch was back in the starting lineup for Berlin. He scored 19 points on 18 kills and one ace. Patch had a one to two ace to error ratio from the service line on 11 attempts and he hit.210 in attack. Jendryk scored 16 points in the middle including a match high four blocks. This 12 kills came alongside a .647 hitting percentage. Kyle Ensing was used as a substitute in every set but the second. He finished with one kill on four attempts and a .000 attack average. Cody Kessel came off the bench in the first four sets but did not score. JT Hatch did not play for Berlin. That loss has essentially eliminated Berlin from the playoffs, and Fakel is in position to move on as one of the best three runners up.

ACH Volley Ljubljana is also eliminated from playoff contention after a 3-0 defeat to Kuzbass Kemerovo on January 29. Kyle Dagostino registered 36 percent positive and 29 percent perfect passes for ACH in the defeat. ACH is still winless in the competition with two matches left. Kuzbass is in first place of the group with a 3-1 record and 10 points.

Champions League Group D: Sir Safety Perugia remained perfect with a 4-0 record and 12 points after a 3-0 victory over Tours VB of France on January 29. Price Jarman started the match and played the first two sets for Tours. He finished with one kill on three attempts and no errors. Tours is 1-3 with three points and is essentially eliminated from playoff contention. Verva Warsaw beat Benfica Lisbon in the other match of the pool. While in second place, Warsaw’s six points are currently not enough to see the Polish club through to the playoffs.

Champions League Group E: ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Kozle is the first team to clinch first place in a group and earn a spot in the playoffs. This will mark the first time that Dave Smith has been in the playoffs of the competition since he last played at Tours back in 2016. Smith had nine points on seven kills and two aces in ZAKSA’s sweep of Knack Roeselare on January 28. He hit .750 and just committed one error in attack. Joe Norman played in the first and third sets. He put away one kill on one attempt. Roeselare sits in third place at 2-2 with five points and is not in playoff contention.

VfB Friedrichshafen moved into second place with a 3-2 win over Vojvodina NS Seme Novi Sad on January 29. Brendan Schmidt scored seven points from seven kills. He hit .700 on 10 attempts and had not errors on the night. Joe Worsley started at setter in the first, fourth, and fifth sets. He set Friedrichshafen to a .423 hitting percentage in the sets he started. Worsley also scored on a kill and two blocks. While Friedrichshafen is in second place, its five points and 2-2 record are not enough to earn a playoff spot at this point.

CEV Cup: Leo Shoes Modena made its first step towards the quarterfinals by winning the first leg against VK Ostrava of the Czech Republic on January 29. Max Holt hit .571 on his way to five kills. He also contributed a block and an ace. Matt Anderson scored nine points on eight kills, one block, and a .267 hitting percentage. Micah Christenson set Modena to a .453 attack average in the win. The two teams will play again in the Czech Republic on February 12. Modena just needs to win two sets to advance to the next round. If it loses in three or four sets, a golden set to 15 will be played to decide who makes it to the quarterfinals.

CEV Challenge Cup: Nick Amado scored eight points in the middle for Unicaja Costa de Almería in a 3-2 victory over Saaremaa VC of Estonia on January 29. His points came from five kills, three blocks, and a .625 hitting percentage. These two teams will play again on February 13 in Spain. Amado and his team must win the match to advance. If Almería loses in five sets it will be forced to win a golden set to 15. If it loses the match in three or four sets it will be eliminated from the tournament.

Colin Mahan and Mitch Perinar both started the first to sets for Samen Lycurgus in a 3-0 defeat to Montpellier of France on January 29. Mahan left the match in the second set after scoring two points on two kills with a -.167 hitting percentage. Perinar finished with three kills, no attack errors, and a .273 hitting percentage. The return leg will be in France on February 12. Lycurgus must win in three or four sets to force a golden set. Any other result will see it being eliminated from the tournament.

Micah Christenson listens to his coach and Italian great, Andrea Giani, during a timeout against Top Volley Cisterna/ photo

Italy: Russell scored 13 points for Trentino in a 3-1 win over Gas Sales Piacenza on February 2. All of his points came from kills and he hit .375 in the victory.

Corey Chavers and Jennings Franciskovic started for Calzedonia Verona on February 2 when the club got dismantled by Lube Civitanova in a match that lasted only 66 minutes. Chavers played the first set but did not score any points. He hit -.333 on six attempts. Franciskovic set Verona to a dismal .013 attack average in the defeat. Garrett Muagututia came in for Chavers and finished the match two kills and a block. Muagututia, a member of the United States national team, hit -.250 in the loss.

Anderson was not in the lineup for Modena on February 2; instead he was in the United States for the birth of his first child. Modena defeated Top Volley Cisterna in four sets. Holt scored 10 points in the middle on four kills, four aces, and two blocks while hitting .429. Christenson scored on one kill and three aces while setting Modena to a .478 attack average.

TJ DeFalco had another rough outing for Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia on February 2. While his club defeated Globo Banca Popolare Del Frusinate Sora in straight sets, he only scored nine points from the left side with a .200 hitting percentage. Kupono Fey was used as a substitute in all three sets. He passed five serves with 60 percent being positive and 40 percent rated as perfect.

Poland: Brenden Sander scored 11 points on nine kills and two aces for Cerrad Enea Czarni Radom in a 3-1 loss to MKS Będzin on January 27. He played in the first, third and fourth sets, hitting .143 in the defeat.

GKS Katowice defeated Asseco Resovia Rzeszów in four sets on January 29. Dustin Watten passed 54 percent of his receptions positively and 4 percent perfectly. Kawika Shoji started the first two sets at setter for Resovia. Resovia hit .191 on the night.

Smith was not utilized by ZAKSA in a 3-0 victory over Cerrad Czarni Radom on February 1. Sander played in the first set for Radom. He finished with a kill on four attempts and hit .000.

Ślepsk Malow Suwałki fell to Jastrzębski Węgiel in four sets on February 1. Josh Tuaniga started the first three sets for Suwałki and the club hit .240 for the match.

Watten passed 48 percent of his receptions positively and 30 percent perfect for GKS Katowice in a 3-1 defeat to Cuprum Lubin on February 2.

Shoji came off the bench for Resovia in the final three sets of a 3-2 defeat to BKS Visła Bydgoszcz on February 3. He ended up scoring a point on a kill.

France: Max Chamberlain scored five points for Tourcoing in a 3-2 defeat to Nice on January 31. He came off the bench in the first two sets and started the final three. Chamberlain ended the match with four kills, one block, and a .667 hitting percentage.

Cannes lost to Nantes Reze in five sets on January 31. Kyle Russell led Cannes with 25 points on 22 kills, two blocks, and one ace. He hit .487 from the right side. Matt West set Cannes to a .336 hitting percentage and scored on two aces from the service line.

Narbonne swept Chaumont on February 1 with Stahl scoring seven points in the middle. His points came from three blocks, three kills, one ace, and he hit -.077 in the defeat.

Tours defeated Ajaccio in four sets on February 1. Jarman did not see any action for Tours.

Micah Ma’a set Poitiers to a .393 attack average in a 3-2 loss to Montpellier on February 1. Ma’a also contributed three kills and an ace.

Germany: WWK Volleys Herrsching earned a sweep over SVG Lüneburg on February 1. Jalen Penrose scored nine points on seven kills and two aces. His seven kills came alongside seven errors, and he hit .000 for the match. Michael Michelau started the first set for Lüneburg. He came off the bench in the second and third sets. Michelau scored three points on three kills with a .000 hitting percentage.

Greg Petty scored 14 points for Volleyball Bisons Bühl in a 3-1 loss to Netzhoppers KW-Bestensee on February 1. Petty scored on 13 kills and a block while hitting .500 on the night.

Kessel led Berlin with 18 points in a sweep of TV Rottenburg on February 1. The Princeton grad hit .516 on his way to 18 kills. Ensing got the start at opposite and finished with 11 kills and a block with a .214 attack average. Jendryk scored nine in the middle on five kills, three aces and a block. He hit .500 in the win. Hatch came in as a serving substitute in the third set and earned an ace. Patch did not play for Berlin. Mitch Penning scored seven points for Rottenburg on five kills and two blocks. He posted a .273 hitting percentage. Karl Apfelbach came off the bench in the second set and played the rest of the way for Rottenburg. He ended up with three kills and three errors for a .000 attack average.

VfB Friedrichshafen suffered another loss on February 1, this time to United Volleys Frankfurt in four sets. Schmidt started the first, third, and fourth sets. He did not score any points and hit -.333. Worsley set the first two sets for Friedrichshafen, and the team hit .137 when he was at the helm. Worsley also produced a point from a block.

Belgium: Knack Roeselare swept Tectum Achel on February 1. Norman did not see action for Roeselare in the win.

Czech Republic: Ústí nad Labem dropped a three-set match to České Budějovice on February 1. Zach Melcher set Ústí nad Labem to a .078 hitting percentage as a team. He also contributed a block.

Matt August scored started and scored five points for Volejbal Brno in a 3-0 win over Fatra Zlín on January 30. August scored on four kills and an ace. He hit .143 in the victory.

Odolena Voda dropped a 3-1 decision to Kladno Volejbal on February 1. Kevin Gear scored 10 points on six kills and four blocks. He posted a .286 hitting percentage.

Finland: Kyle Foley played as a substitute for Karelian Hurmos in the third and fourth sets of a 3-1 loss to Etta Oulu on January 27. He ended up scoring a point from a kill.

The Vantaa Ducks defeated Raision Loimu in three sets on January 29. Tommy Carmody scored eight points in the middle on six kills, one ace, and one block. He posted a .444 attack average. Blake Leeson led Loimu with 14 points on 12 kills, one block, and one ace. He hit .364 in attack. Avery Aylsworth passed 35 percent positively and 29 percent perfectly for Loimu.

Josh Ayzenberg passed 40 percent of his receptions positively and 20 percent were classified as perfect in a 3-0 win over Team Lakkapää on February 1. Ryan Manoogian passed eight percent of his service receptions positively in the defeat.

Carmody scored six points for the Vantaa Ducks in a seep of Karelian Hurmos on February 1. He posted a .556 attack average with six kills. Foley started the final two sets at setter for Hurmos, and the team hit .250 when he was running the offense.

Karelian Hurmos beat Team Lakkapää in four sets on February 2. Foley started at setter. In addition to scoring on three kills, one block, and one ace, he also set Hurmos to a .448 hitting percentage. Manoogian posted a 45 and 40 percent passing performance.

Leeson scored 15 for Raison Loimu in a 3-2 defeat t Kokkolan Tiikerit on February 2. He finished with 13 kills, two blocks, and a .217 attack average. Aylsworth put forth a 35 and 15 percent passing performance.

The Vantaa Ducks ended the week undefeated with a 3-2 win over Savo Volley. Carmody put away 15 kills in the middle with 11 kills and four blocks. He also hit.450 in the win. Ayzenberg recorded 79 percent positive passes and 32 percent perfect receptions for Savo.

Slovenia: ACH Volley defeated SK ZadrugaAICH/DOB of Austria in four sets on February 1. Dagostino did not play for ACH.

Spain: Unicaja Costa de Almería remained in first place with a 3-1 win over Rio Duero Soria. Amado finished with four points on four kills with a .182 attack average.

Arenal Emevé defeated Conectabalear CV Manacor on February 1. Matthew Knigge scored 11 points on seven kills, two blocks, and two aces. Knigge hit .545 in the win.

Switzerland: Mitch Beal scored 17 points for TSV Jona Volleyball in 3-1 defeat to Chênois Genève Volleyball on February 1. He scored his points on 17 kills with a .400 attack average from the right side. Grayson Overman played in the last two sets and scored three points on a kill and two blocks.

Matt Yoshimoto came off the bench in the fourth set Lindaren Volley Amriswil in its 3-1 loss to Biogas Volley Näfels on February 1. He did not score any points.

Netherlands: Perinar scored nine points for Samen Lycurgus in a 3-2 win over Sliedrecht Sport on February 1. His points came on eight kills and a block. Meehan did not play for Lycurgus.

Coming Up: Lube Civitanova vs. Leo Shoes Modena, Italy, February 5 — Lube has only dropped one match in the SuperLega while Modena is looking to continue its unbeaten streak in 2020. A win will keep Lube in first place, and a Modena victory will keep it solidly grounded in third position. Anderson may not be back in the lineup after the birth of his son, but Bednorz and Kaliberda are capable of holding down the outside hitter duties.

Lindaren Volley Amriswil vs. TSV Jona Volleyball, Switzerland, February 8 — The two teams in Switzerland’s top division with American players face each other this weekend. The two teams are in much different positions. Amriswil is trying to stay at the top of the sandings, and TSV Jona is trying to stay in playoff contention. Mitch Beal is coming off one of his best performances of the year for TSV Jona ahead of its match against Switzerland’s top team.

Cerrad Czarni Radom vs. Asseco Resovia Rzeszów, Poland, February 10 — Two players competing for a backup roster spot in Tokyo (Kawika Shoji and Brenden Sander) will be squaring off against each other this week in Poland. Both teams are within two positions of each other in the standings, with Resovia in tenth position and Radom in twelfth. Both teams are vying for the last position in the playoffs with 10 matches left in the regular season.

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