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 coronavirus continues to have an impact on the world of volleyball. While many matches in Italy took place, two matches were postponed due to players having fevers. While the country is essentially put on lockdown until April 3, the Italian SuperLega is also suspended until at least that date. CEV Champions League and CEV Cup matches taking place in Italy have also been suspended and postponed. Some match schedules have not been finalized, others have been cancelled with the results form the first legs deciding what team advances. Other leagues continued without delay. The Russian Super League finished its regular season. Switzerland and Belgium are in between rounds of playoffs and were not in action this past week.
Three Stars: All of the players earning the honor this week have been mentioned on this list before. One player earned a second title for his club this year. The other two players are making their cases for spots on the US National Team ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games.
Kyle Dagostino, libero, ACH Volley, Slovenia — Dagostino earned his second Best Libero award of the season this past week. After claiming the honor earlier in the year in the Slovenian Cup, he earned the prize again in the Middle European Volleyball Zonal Association (MEVZA) competition. He passed 73 percent positive and 45 percent perfect in the semifinals on March 4. Dagostino followed it up with an 83 and 83 percent passing performance in the finals and earned ACH Volley’s second major trophy of the season.
Ben Patch, opposite, Berlin Recycling Volleys, Germany — While Berlin had a difficult and disappointing European campaign, it is playing flawless volleyball in Germany with a perfect 20-0 record and only dropping five points. Patch is a big part of that success. This past weekend he led Berlin with 27 points in a four-set win. Patch scored on 26 kills and an ace while hitting .657 from the right side.
Micah Ma’a, setter, Poitiers, France — There were a few setters who put forth great performances to lead teams to victories this past week. Ma’a’s team hit .362 against first-place Tours in the French Ligue A. It moved Poitiers into seventh position, solidifying its place in playoff contention. Ma’a also scored seven points from five kills and two blocks.
CEV Champions League Quarterfinals: Lube Civitanova handled business in the first leg of the quarterfinals against Knack Roeselare, winning 3-0 on March 4. Osmany Juantorena led Lube with 12 kills and three aces. Robertlandy Simon and Matieusz Bieniek both scored 10 points each in the middle. Joe Norman did not play for Roeselare. The Belgian club requested not to travel to Italy for the return leg that was scheduled for March 11. As a result, the Lube will advance to the semifinals.
Sir Safety Perugia defeated Fakel Novy Urengoy in four sets on March 4. Erik Shoji passed 29 percent of his receptions positively and 13 percent perfect in the defeat. Wilfredo Leon and Aleksandar Atanasijevic both put down 15 kills for Perugia. The two teams are scheduled to play on March 10. The Russian government enacted a mandatory 14 day quarantine for anybody traveling to Italy. This would have an impact on league playoffs. Erik Shoji announced that the clubs were working with the CEV to explore a neutral location. At this time it looks like the result of the previous match may be the deciding factor, putting Perugia through to the semifinals, but this has not been announced by the CEV at this time.
ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle defeated Kuzbass Kemerovo in five sets on March 4. Dave Smith scored eight points form six kills and two blocks with a .455 hitting percentage. Kamil Semeniuk led ZAKSA with 19 points, and Arpad Baroti was just behind with 18.
The match between Itas Trentino and Jastrzębski Węgiel was not played due to the Polish club refusing to travel to Italy. The match was to be rescheduled on March 13, but due to the recent developments with Italian volleyball, that issue has not yet been resolved.
CEV Cup: Leo Shoes Modena rested a number of its players in the first leg of its quarterfinal match against GFC Ajaccio of France on February 26. Micah Christenson still set Modena to .317 hitting percentage without Matt Anderson, Ivan Zaytsev, Max Holt, or Denis Kaliberda in a 3-0 sweep. The return leg, that was set for Wednesday, has been postponed due to the health risks of the region.
Italy: Consar Ravenna defeated Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia 3-2 on March 4. TJ DeFalco scored 12 points on nine kills and three aces. He hit .120 in the defeat. Sharone Vernon Evans, opposite from Canada, led all scorers with 28 points
Matey Kaziysky arrived at Calzedonia Verona after concluding his season in Japan. He immediately made an impact in his first match back, scoring 23 from 18 kills, three blocks, and two aces in a 3-2 victory over Top Volley Cisterna on March 7. He also hit .429. Garrett Muagututia scored 10 points on eight kills, hit .222, and had one block, and one ace. Jennings Franciskovic and Corey Chavers did not see the court for Verona in the win.
Modena defeated Vero Volley Monza on March 8. Christenson, the MVP of the match, set Modena to a .389 attack average. He had three blocks to go with a kill and an ace. Holt finished with seven kills, two blocks, two aces, and hit .455. Anderson scored 10 on seven kills, two blocks, and one ace while hitting .238.
In a true heavyweight bout between the last two FIVB Club World Champions, Lube defeated Trentino in five sets. Aaron Russell put away 16 kills to go with two aces and a block with a .216 hitting percentage. Yoandy Leal led all scorers with 25 points.
Russia: Fakel Novy Urengoy defeated Nova Novokuybyshevsk in straight sets in the last match of the regular season on March 6. Shoji was not on the court for Fakel, who will face Yenisei Krasnoyark in the first round of the playoffs.
Poland: Josh Tuaniga set Ślepsk Malow Suwałki to a .514 hitting percentage against Trefl Gdansk in a 3-0 win on March 4. Tuaniga also contributed a kill and three aces in the win.
Brenden Sander did not play for Cerrad Czarni Radom in a 3-2 defeat to PGE Skra Bełchatów on March 6.
Asseco Resovia Rzeszów earned a 3-2 win over Aluron Virty CWC Zawiercie on March 6. Kawika Shoji was used as a substitute in the first four sets. He scored two points from a kill and an ace.
BKS Visła Bydgoszcz defeated Ślepsk Malow Suwałki in straight sets on March 7. Tuaniga set Suwałki to a .239 attack average in the defeat and did not score any points.
ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle beat Indykpol AZS Olsztyn in four sets on March 7. Smith did not play for ZAKSA.
Dustin Watten passed 75 percent of his receptions to a positive outcome and 45 percent perfectly for GKS Katowice in a 3-1 win over Jastrzębski Węgiel on March 8.
France: Cannes defeated Narbonne 3-1 on March 7 at home. Kyle Russell led the match with 25 points on 21 kills, one block, and three aces with a .378 hitting percentage. Matt West set Cannes to a .336 atack average.
Tourcoing claimed a victory over fourth-place Chaumont in five sets on March 7. Max Chamberlain did not play for Tourcoing. Mitch Stahl scored seven points in the middle for Chaumont on seven kills while hitting .600.
Poitiers earned an important win over league-leading Tours on March 7 that moved the club into seventh position on the table. Micah Ma’a scored seven points on five kills and two aces. He also set Poitiers to a .362 hitting percentage. Price Jarman came off the bench in the fourth set for Tours but did not score.
Germany: VfB Friedrichshafen earned an important sweep over WWK Volleys Herrsching on March 7. Brendan Schmidt scored four points on three kills and a block. He hit .333 in the victory. Joe Worsley came into the game as a substitute in the second set. Jalen Penrose led Herrsching, and the match, with 20 points from 19 kills and an ace with a .483 hitting percentage.
Berlin Recycling Volleys defeated Volleyball Bisons Bühl in four sets on March 7. Ben Patch led Berlin with 27 points. He scored on 26 kills and an ace while hitting .657. Cody Kessel played in all four sets, starting the second and third. He finished with five points on five kills while posting a .556 hitting percentage. Jeff Jendryk came off the bench in the second set and played the rest of the way. He finished with seven kills, one block, and hit .455. JT Hatch was used as a substitute in the second and third sets and did not score any points. Greg Petty led Bühl with 15 points. He contributed 13 kills and two aces while posting a .423 hitting percentage.
Helios Grizzlys Giesen defeated SVG Lüneburg in straight sets on March 8. David Wieczorek helped Giesen with 12 points on nine kills, one block, and two aces. The rookie from Pepperdine continued his hot streak by hitting .692 without any errors. Michael Wexter was used as a substitute in the last two sets and did not score any points. Leo Durkin set SVG Lüneburg to a .439 hitting percentage and scored from a kill. Michael Michelau came off the bench in the second set and finished the match for Lüneburg. He finished with five kills, two blocks, and hit .400.
TV Rottenburg dropped a 3-1 decision to United Volleys Frankfurt on March 8. Mitch Penning scored seven points on four kills and three blocks for Rottenburg while hitting .500 without any attack errors. Karl Apfelbach was used as a substitute in the first and fourth sets while starting the second set at opposite. He contributed four kills on 11 attempts and hit .091.
Czech Republic: Odolena Voda lost 3-1 to Příbram on March 7. Kevin Gear scored 13 points in the middle for Odolena Voda. This included a match-high six blocks to go with seven kills. Gear also hit .357 on the night.
Matt August scored one point for Volejbal Brno in a 301 loss to Praha. August was used as a substitute in the first three sets and started the fourth. He finished with four points on one kill, two blocks, and an ace while hitting .000.
Zach Melcher set Ústí nad Labem to a .250 hitting percentage in a 3-2 defeat to PrahaBeskydy on March 7. Melcher also scored three points on three kills.
Finland: Raison Loimu defeated Team Lakkapää in three sets on March 7. Blake Leeson scored 16 points on 12 kills, three blocks, and an ace with a .500 hitting percentage while playing as an opposite. Avery Aylsworth passed 25 percent of his receptions positively.
The Vantaa Ducks defeated second-placed Savo Volley in five sets on March 7. Tommy Carmody scored nine points from four kills and five blocks while hitting .125. Josh Ayzenberg put forth a 57 and 30 percent passing performance in serve receive.
Kyle Foley set Karelian Hurmos to a .275 average in a 3-1 loss to Etta Oulu on March 8. He also scored on three kills, two aces, and one block.
Savo Volley beat Raison Loimu in a sweep on March 8. Leeson played in the first two sets and scored seven points from six kills and an ace. He hit .313. Aylsworth passed 25 percent of his receptions positively and 17 percent perfect.
Slovenia: ACH Volley defeated Union Raiffeisen of Austria in five sets on March 4 in the MEVZA semifinals. Kyle Dagostino passed 73 percent positive passes and 45 percent of his receptions were perfect.
Dagostino followed that up with an 83 and 83 percent passing performance on March 5 in the finals of the MEZVA. ACH defeated HAOK Mladost of Croatia in three sets to claim the championship of the competition. Dagostino earned the Best Libero award at the end of the competition. That is his second such award this season, claiming the Best Libero honor in the Slovenian Cup as well.
Spain: Arenal Emevé beat Voleibol Almoradí in five sets on March 7. Matthew Knigge scored 16 points on 10 kills, five blocks, and an ace. He hit .444 from the middle in the win.
Unicaja Costa de Almería defeated Urbia Voley Palma in three sets on March 7. Nick Amado scored six points on three kills and three blocks with a .750 hitting percentage and not attack errors.
Netherlands: Samen Lycurgus lost to first-placed Draisma Dynamo in the championship pool of the Dutch Eredivisie on March 4 in five sets. Mitch Perinar led Lycurgus with 20 kills and three blocks. Collin Mahan contributed five kills.
Lycurgus bounced back with a 3-0 victory over Sliedrecht Sport on March 7. Perinar scored 12 points on nine kills and three blocks. Mahan also scored 12 points, but his potins came from six kills, four aces, and two blocks. Lycurgus is now two points behind Draisma Dynamo after playing four matches in the six-team championship pool.
Coming Up: TV Rottenburg vs. Netzhoppers KW-Bestensee, Germany, March 14 — Rottenburg is just outside of playoff contention. It is four points away from eighth place, so it needs two wins in its last two matches to put itself in a position to possibly qualify for the quarterfinals. Apfelbach has had big matches, but needs to find consistency in what could be the last two matches of his rookie season. Penning needs to be productive from the service line and on the block to score points if he does not get fed in the middle.
Berlin Recycling Volleys vs. VfB Friedrichshafen, Germany, March 15 — One of these two teams have won the German Bundesliga every year since 1998. While Friedrichshafen has won more championships during that time (13 compared to nine), Berlin has won the last four and seven of the last eight. Berlin is undefeated in Germany this year. The club is a perfect 20-0 in the Bundesliga, won the German Cup, and won the German Super Cup. With two regular season matches left, Friedrichshafen is in third place, but has the same record (14-6) and points (44) as United Volleys Frankfurt. Worsley and Schmidt need to get favorable results to lock up the second seed heading into the playoffs.