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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Champions League was back in action. The eight teams in the quarterfinals have been decided and drawing of lots to determine the matchups occurred. The Coppa Italia concluded this past weekend with American players being shut out of the final. The playoffs in Switzerland are still in the quarterfinals and many of the other European leagues will be concluding their regular seasons within the month.
Three Stars: There are a few familiar names on the list week and a player who is being recognized for the first time. Playoffs are on the horizon in many leagues, and these players put forth performances to try and get their respective teams in better positions.
Aaron Russell, outside hitter, Itas Trentino, Italy — Russell produced two great performances for Trentino last week. He opened up the weekend with 19 points in a must-win match to close out the pool in the CEV Champions League. He hit .481 on his way to 18 kills to go with a block. He followed it up in the Coppa Italia semifinals with 15 kills (17 points total) and a .682 hitting percentage.
Greg Petty, outside hitter, Volleyball Bisons Bühl, Germany — Petty led Bühl with 19 points in a 3-0 win over TV Rottenburg on February 22. His points came on 13 points, a block, and four aces while hitting .684. That was an important win for Bühl, as it got the club out of the relegation zone.
Matthew Knigge, middle blocker, Arenal Emevé, Spain — Knigge produces the numbers of an outside hitter from the middle blocker position. This past week he scored 21 points in four sets. He hit .538 on his way to 17 kills, and he contributed a match-high four blocks.
Champions League: The group stage of the CEV Champions League concluded on Wednesday, February 19, and the drawing of lots for the quarterfinal matchups took place the next day. While there were many American players on teams that were eliminated, every quarterfinal matchup does feature at least one player from the United States. The biggest absence in the playoffs is notably Zenit Kazan of Russia. While there are no American players on the roster this year, it was the home of Matt Anderson for the previous eight years. Lloy Ball and Clay Stanley were also a part of the Kazan team that first won a Champions League title back in 2008.
Champions League Pool A: Russell scored 19 points for Itas Trentino in a must-win match against České Budějovice. He hit .481 with 18 kills to go along with a block in a 3-2 win. The win qualified Trentino into the playoffs as one of the three top-performing runners-up with a 4-2 record and 10 points.
Champions League Pool B: Erik Shoji helped Fakel Novy Urengoy defeat ACH Volley Ljubljana in five sets. Shoji passed 64 percent of his receptions positively and led the match with 36 percent perfect passes. Kyle Dagostino produced a 50 and 29 percent passing performance in serve receive for ACH Volley. ACH was 0-6 and did not advance to the playoffs, but Fakel qualified as a runner-up from the group at 4-2 with 12 points.
Berlin Recycling Volleys went five sets with Kuzbass Kemerovo, but eventually lost its last match of the Champions League. Berlin was led once again by Ben Patch. The opposite from BYU scored 16 points on 15 kills and a block, but he also committed nine errors for a .194 average. Jeff Jendryk played the first three sets, finishing with six kills and a .500 hitting percentage. Cody Kessel came off the bench in the third set and finished the match. He did not commit an error and hit .588 while registering 10 points. JT Hatch was used as a serving sub in the fifth set, his attempt resulting in an error. Kyle Ensing did not play for Berlin, which bows out of the competition after finishing in third place at 2-4 with seven points.
Champions League Group D: Price Jarman did not play for Tours VB in a 3-1 win over Benfica Lison. Tours was the runner-up at 3-3, but its nine points were not enough to advance to the next round.
Champions League Group E: ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle defeated VfB Friedrichshafen in three sets to finish out group play. Dave Smith played in the first two sets and scored five points. He put away three kills, a block, and an ace with a perfect 1.000 hitting percentage. Brendan Schmidt scored two points in the middle for Friedrichshafen. He contributed a kill and an ace but only hit -.500. Joe Worsley was utilized as a substitute in the second set for Friedrichshafen. ZAKSA had already secured its place in the quarterfinals back after its fourth match of the pool. It won its group with a 6-0 record and a perfect 18 points. Friedrichshafen was eliminated from the Champions League after finishing in third place in the pool at 2-4 with five points.
Knack Roeselare defeated Vojvodina NS Seme Novi Sad in straight sets. Joe Norman did not see the court for Roeselare, advancing to the quarterfinals as a runner-up in the group with a 4-2 record and 11 points.
Italy: Russell scored 17 points and hit .682, but it was not enough for Trentino. Lube Civitanova prevailed in five sets to advance to the finals of the Coppa Italia and eventually win it all. Russell had 15 kills without an error and two blocks.
Sir Safety Perugia defeated Leo Shoes Modena in three sets to claim the other spot in the cup final. Matt Anderson hit .125 on his way to 5 kills. He also contributed a block and two aces. Max Holt finished with 4 kills and hit .800 to go along with two blocks. Micah Christenson set Modena to a .293 hitting percentage in the defeat.
Russia: Erik Shoji passed 46 percent of his receptions positively and 19 percent perfect in Fakel Novy Urengoy’s 3-2 victory over Ural Ufa on February 23.
Poland: Dustin Watten passed 71 percent of his receptions positively and 41 percent perfectly for GKS Katowice in a 3-0 defeat to MKS Bedzin on February 21.
ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle defeated Asseco Resovia Rzeszów in three sets on February 22. Dave Smith scored seven points in the middle on five kills and two blocks with a .500 hitting percentage. Kawika Shoji was used as a substitute in the first two sets and started the last set for Resovia. His team hit .325 on the night.
Brenden Sander’s Cerrad Czarni Radom pulled off a huge 3-0 win over Jastrzębski Węgiel on February 22. While it was a great win for the team, Sander struggled and did not play in the third set. He scored four points on four kills while hitting .071.
Ślepsk Malow Suwałki defeated Aluron Virtu CMC Zawiercie in four sets on February 23. Josh Tuaniga led Suwałki to handing Zawiercie its first loss since parting ways with its coach, Mark Lebedew on February 14. Tuaniga set his team to a .400 attack average in addition to scoring three points on two kills and a block.
France: Price Jarman came off the bench in the fifth set and scored a point on a block for Tours in a 3-2 defeat to Narbonne on February 22.
Mitch Stahl scored six points in the middle for Chaumont in a 3-1 victory over Rennes on February 22. He scored on an ace, a kill, and four blocks. Stahl hit .200 in the win.
Poitiers prevailed over Arago de Sete in five sets on February 22. Micah Ma’a set Poitiers to a .346 hitting percentage and scored six points. His points came on two aces and a match-high four blocks.
Matt West set Cannes to a .341 attack average in a 3-0 victory over Tourcoing. West also scored three points on two kills and an ace. Kyle Russell led the match with 16 points on 11 kills, a block, and four aces. Russell hit .285 on the night. Max Chamberlain did not play for Tourcoing.
Germany: Helios Grizzlys Giesen played Ketzhoppers KW-Bestensee on February 19. David Wieczorek scored 12 points for Giesen in the 3-1 victory. His points came on 10 kills and two blocks with a .241 hitting percentage. Michael Wexter was used by Giesen as a substitute in both the second and third sets. He finished with one kill on four attempts and hit .250.
Greg Petty led Volleyball Bisons Bühl with 19 points in a 3-0 win over TV Rottenburg on February 22. His points came on 13 points, a block, and four aces while hitting .684. Karl Apfelbach scored 14 points for Rottenburg. He had 12 kills, hit .333 and had two blocks. Mitch Penning scored five points in the middle for Rottenburg on four kills and an ace.
Netzhoppers defeated SVG Lüneburg in four sets on February 22. Michael Michelau came off the bench in the first set and finished the match for Lüneburg. He finished the match with 10 points on eight kills and two aces while hitting .174.
United Volleys Frankfurt topped Helios Girzzlys Giesen in four sets on February 22. Michael Wexter led Giesen with 22 points from 21 kills and an ace while hitting .415. David Wieczorek finished the match with seven kills, four blocks, and two aces. The rookie outside hitter hit .158.
WWK Volleys Herrsching topped Heitec Volleys Eltmann on February 22. Jalen Penrose scored 28 points in the 3-1 win. His points came on 21 kills, a block, and six aces. Penrose hit .341 in the victory.
Brendan Schmidt scored three points in the middle for VfB Friedrichshfen in a 3-1 victory over Hypo Tirol AlpenVolleys Unterhaching on February 22. Schmidt scored on a kill, block, and an ace while hitting .000. He played in the first three sets. Joe Worsley came off the bench in the fourth set.
Belgium: Joe Norman and Knack Roeselare defeated Cauur Volley Gent in the first match of the playoffs on February 22. Noran did not play for Roeselare.
Czech Republic: Zach Melcher set Ústí nad Labem to a .231 hitting percentage in the the first two sets, which he started, in a 3-0 defeat to Příbram on February 22. Melcher did not score any points in the defeat.
Matt August scored 10 points in the middle as Volejbal Brno in a 3-2 loss to VK Ostrava on February 22. August scored on nine kills, hitting .538, and a block.
Finland: Raison Loimu fell to Kokkolan Tiikerit in five sets on February 19. Blake Leeson scored 17 points from the right side on 15 kills, one block, and an ace with a .093 hitting percentage. Avery Aylsworth passed 24 percent of his receptions positively and 12 percent perfect.
Raison Loimu came back the next day to defeat Team Lakkapää 3-0. Leeson scored 10 points on nine kills and an ace while hitting .412 on the night. Aylsworth put in a 38 and zero percent passing performance. Ryan Manoogian was not in the lineup for Lakkapää.
Josh Ayzenberg passed 50 percent positive and 33 percent perfect for Savo Volley in a 3-0 sweep of Etta Oulu on February 22.
Hurrikaani Loimaa defeated the Vantaa Ducks in three sets on February 22. Tommy Carmody had six points in the middle for the Ducks. His points came on five kills, one block, and he posted a .571 hitting percentage.
Karelian Hurmos fell to VaLePa in three sets on February 22. Kyle Foley did not play for Hurmos.
Savo Volley swept Team Lakkapää on February 23. Ayzenberg posted a 44 and 22 percent performance in reception. Manoogian was not in the lineup for Lakkapää.
Kyle Foley started at setter for Karelian Hurmos on February 23 in a 3-1 loss to Akaa Volley. He set Hurmos to a .357 hitting percentage. He also scored six points of his own on four kills and two blocks.
Slovenia: Dagostino did not play in ACH Volley’s 3-0 sweep over Panvita Pomgrad on February 22 in the second phase of Slovenia’s domestic league.
Spain: Unicaja Costa de Almería defeated Voley Textil Santanderina in three sets on February 22. Nick Amado scored five points in the middle for Almería. He hit .500 with no errors and finished with three kills to go with two blocks.
Arenal Emevé lost to Vecindario ACE GC in four sets in four sets on February 22. Matthew Knigge scored 21 points in the middle. He scored on 17 kills and four blocks. Knigge hit .538 on 26 attempts.
Switzerland: Mitch Beal scored 15 points for TSV Jona Volleyball in a 3-1 defeat to Volley Schönenwerd to start the quarterfinal series on February 22. Beal scored on 12 kills, two blocks, and an ace while hitting .200. Grayson Overman came off the bench in the fourth set. He scored on two blocks and one kill from one attempt.
Coming Up: Itas Trentino vs. Top Volley Cisterna, Italy, March 1 — Trentino gets the chance to make ground on Modena in third place. Modena has a bye this week, and Trentino is coming off of a defeat in which it almost defeated the top team in Italy in the Coppa Italia. It cannot overtake Modena, but it can pull within five points with four matches remaining in the regular season.