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.
The playoffs are ramping up in many countries, as every league still playing but France is now in the finals. There were some noteworthy matches in the Italian semifinals to set up a rematch of last year’s finals.
Matt Anderson is close to finishing out his time at Zenit Kazan with another domestic championship. Taylor Averill and Michael Saeta are attempting to make run deep into the playoffs after a disappointing regular season. Garrett Muagututia and PAOK Thessaloniki were not in action as the finals in Greece have not yet started. Since it is the spring, there continue to be news on potential transfers for the upcoming season.
Transfer News: Thomas Jaeschke will move to Revivre Axopower Milano for the 2019-2020 season. Jaeschke’s last club was Calzedonia Verona, but he has missed all season due to a torn ACL he suffered on June 16, 2018, playing for the USA in a match against Serbia in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
While the club has not announced a signing, Gian Luca Pasini of the Gazetta in Italy has reported on Milano’s intentions. Milano finished the Italian SuperLega in fifth place this season and were eliminated by Azimut Leo Shoes Modena in the first round of the playoffs.
Taylor Averill is still helping Chaumont VB 52 to reach the finals of the French Ligue A, but it looks like he may be leaving the club at the conclusion of its 2019-2020 campaign. Averill, the leading scorer for Chaumont throughout the CEV Champions League this year, has been associated with a move to GKS Katowice of Poland. If rumors are true, he could be playing with Dustin Watten in the upcoming season.
It looks like Matt West could be headed to France. After finishing the regular season of the Finnish Mestaruusliiga in first place and winning the bronze medal in the playoffs with Hurrikaani Loimaa, West is rumored to be headed to AS Cannes in France. Cannes finished at the bottom of the table in the French Ligue A this season, and West is an experienced setter who has contended for championships in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Finland.
Russia: Matt Anderson had 10 points on five kills, three blocks, and two aces for Zenit Kazan in a 3-0 win against Fakel Nova Urengoy to advance to the finals. Anderson only hit .158 in a match where Earvin N’Gapeth was held to only six kills. Maxim Mikhailov all players with 22 kills, one block, one ace, and a .714 hitting percentage. Erik Shoji was Fakel’s leading passer with 48 percent positive receptions along with 10 percent perfect passes. Zenit Kazan will face Kuzbass Kemerovo in the best-of-five final series starting May 2.
Italy: Juilo Velasco, Azimut Leo Shoes Modena’s head coach, took a bold step and started Kevin Tillie at outside hitter against Sir Safety Perugia in the fourth match of the series. The move worked like a charm as Tillie, a former NCAA champions and All-American with UC Irvine, was Modena’s most efficient passer (56 percent positive passes) and attacker (.636 hitting percentage). Tillie finished with seven kills and a block in Modena’s 3-0 victory over Perugia to force a fifth match in the series. Bartosz Bednorz and Izan Zaytsev both scored 12 apiece, and Max Holt finished with five. Holt’s points came on kill, an ace, and three blocks. Micah Christenson set Modena to a .474 hitting percentage while earning two aces in the win. Perugia was led by Wilfredo Leon’s 14 points, and Jonah Seif did not make an appearance in the match.
Modena made a promising start in the fifth match of the series. After taking the first set 25-19, Christenson and his team were up 21-17 in the second set. An injury to Bartosz Bednorz hurt Modena, who dropped the second set and lost the match in five. Tillie hit .300 on his way to 10 points. Bednorz scored 10 points on seven kills, one block, and two aces before having to leave the match in the second set. Ivan Zaytsev added 18 kills and three aces while hitting .324. Max Holt hit .545 on his way to seven kills, three blocks, and two aces. Christenson set Modena to a .435 attack average in the defeat. Leon (22) and Aleksandar Atanasijevic (21) led Perugia in scoring, and Jonah Seif was a substitute in the third set.
Modena will meet up with Lube Civitanova in the finals. Lube defeated Itas Trentino in straight sets back on April 25 to take the series 3-1. Tsvetan Sokolov and Osmany Juantorena both scored 16 for Lube. Juantorena led with match with 15 kills. Aaron Russell scored 12 for Trentino on 11 kills and one ace, but he only hit .240 on the night. Uros Kovacevic was held to just 3 kills and hit -.125. The best-of-five final series will begin on May 1.
Germany: VfB Friedrichshafen made a statement on Sunday with a sweep of the Berlin Recycling Volleys to open the best-of-five final series. Friedrichshafen was able to slow down the productive Berlin offense orchestrated by Sergey Grankin. Ben Patch hit .000 in the first set and earned two kills. Kyle Russell entered in the first set and finished the match at opposite. Russell finished with eight kills but only hit .188. He also contributed a block and an ace. Jeff Jendryk put away four kills to go alongside a block with a .333 hitting percentage. The series will continue on May 2 back in Berlin.
France: Chaumont finished off its best-of-three quarterfinal series against Montpellier with another sweep back on April 23. Taylor Averill finished with three kills, one block, and an ace while hitting .429. Michael Saeta, a left-handed setter, put away three kills and set Chaumont to a .358 hitting percentage.
The semifinal series started on April 28, and Chaumont took its first step towards reaching the final with a 3-0 win over Ajaccio. Averill again scored five points, contributing four kills and one block. Saeta also put down three kills, but also added three blocks to his point total. He set Chaumont to a .385 hitting percentage. The best-of-three series will continue on May 2.
Tours beat Nice in five sets to open the semifinals. Mitch Stahl was not used by Tours in the semifinal win.
Belgium: Greenyard Maaseik opened the best-of-five final series against Knack Roeselare with a 3-2 victory. Sam Holt was used as a substitute in the first two sets but did not finish with any points. The second match of the series will take place on May 1.
Italy: Lube Civitanova vs. Sir Safety Perugia, May 1 and 5 — Lube had the best win-loss record in the Italian SuperLega and have the best record in the playoffs, dropping just one match to Trentino is the semifinals. The one team Lube has not had success against is Perugia. Lube dropped both matches to Perugia in the regular season, accounting for two of its three regular season losses. Perugia also beat Lube in the finals of the Coppa Italia. Lube is the hottest team in Italy right now, also in the finals of the CEV Champions League, but Perugia had its number all year. It will be interesting to see if Lube can find the answer for Perugia and do it three times in
Russia: Kuzbass Kemerovo vs. Zenit Kazan, May 2 and 3 — Kuzbass is in its first final in the club’s history. Zenit Kazan has been here each of the last five years. Igor Kobzar, who has won a championship with Zenit in the past, and Victor Poleatev, the next in line at opposite for Russia who has also won a championship with Zenit, are squaring up against some of Russia’s established stars in Maxim Mikhailov, Artem Volvich, and Alexander Butko. This will be a tall order for Kuzbass, who have only taken one set off of Zenit Kazan this year.
France: Chaumont vs. Ajaccio, May 2 — Chaumont is looking to grab one more win to make it into the finals. Chaumont has been in the finals the last two seasons, winning it in 2017, so this prospect does not seem too noteworthy. The French runners-up last year finished the regular season in 2019 in sixth position with ten losses. Reaching the finals after beating the teams finishing third and second would be quite a feat. This would be an impressive run to finish a season in which it made club history in the CEV Champions League, reaching the playoffs. Taylor Averill has had his production slowed down a bit in the playoffs, averaging five points a match, but Saeta continues to set an offense hitting over .350.