International men: Anderson, Seif, 4 Americans in Germany still chasing titles

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Kyle Russell and Jeff Jendryk go up for a block in the second match of the German Bundesliga final series/BR Volleys Twitter account

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 blairlambert2@gmail.com

While many leagues have concluded for the season, the finals are still taking place in a few countries.

Matt Anderson has just two weeks left with Zenit Kazan as the team tries to secure two more trophies this season. Jonah Seif is still in action in Italy as that series is still a toss-up. Jeff Jendryk, Kyle Russell, Ben Patch, and Dustin Watten are trying to stay alive in Germany. The French finals are about to get under way with Americans on both teams. There has been some news coming out of the transfer market about a potential move for a current member of Team USA, and a contract extension that has been finalized.

Transfer News: Last week it was reported by the Gazetta in Italy that Thomas Jaeschke was being pursued by Revivre Axopower Milano. That move did not come to fruition, and Calzedonia Verona signed Jaeschke for two more seasons. The outside hitter from Loyola of Chicago missed this last season after suffering a torn ACL on June 16, 2018 playing for the United States in a match against Serbia in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Without Jaeschke, Verona finished the Italian SuperLega in sixth place, its lowest finish in five seasons. It was eliminated by Lube Civitanova in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

Jaeschke started his professional career at Asseco Resovia in Poland after leaving Loyola before his senior season. After two seasons in Poland, where he was not a fixture in the starting seven, he was one of the cornerstones of Verona’s lineup. Jaeschke scored 431 points in his first season, including 50 aces and 45 blocks. Verona finished fifth place in the regular season and lost to Trentino in the quarterfinals after taking the series to a third match in the best-of-three series.

Bruno Voloch, Brazilian volleyball journalist, is reporting that Ben Patch might move to Brazil to play for Funvic Taubate. Patch is still playing for the Berlin Recycling Volleys in the finals of the German Bundesliga. While he has been in the starting lineup throughout the latter part of the regular season and playoffs, Patch had been splitting time on the floor with Kyle Russell. Taubate is in the finals of the Brazilian Superliga playoffs against SESI-SP, beating Taylor Sander and Sada Cruzeiro.

Erik Shoji and Fakel Nova Urengoy celebrate winning the bronze medal/Fakel Volley Instagram

Russia: The Russian finals did not start according to anybody’s script last week, unless you asked those at Kuzbass Kemerovo. The series opened May 1 with Kuzbass earning a 3-0 sweep over Zenit Kazan. Matt Anderson scored 11 points on 10 kills and an ace with a .429 hitting percentage. Earvin N’Gapeth and Maxim Mikhailov also contributed 11 points for Kazan in a losing effort. Victor Poletaev led all players with 19 points for Kuzbass.

Kuzbass took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series on May 2 after it defeated Kazan in four sets. Anderson again had 11 points, this time from nine kills and two aces. He suffered in attack efficiency, hitting only .174. N’Gapeth and Mikhailov scored 18 and 20 points respectively. Poletaev was again the leading scorer for Kuzbass with 23 points on 20 kills, one block, and two aces. Kazan will have to win the next three matches to take the Russian Super League title starting on May 7.

Erik Shoji and Fakel Nova Urengoy took third place in Russia after beating Zenit St. Petersburg in two consecutive matches. Fakel won in five sets on May 1 with Shoji passing 39 percent of his receptions positively and registering 13 percent perfect passes. Shoji and his team finished the best-of-three series on May 5 with a 3-1 victory. Shoji finished with 63 percent positive passes, and 31 percent of his receptions were rated as perfect.

Italy: While most of the Americans playing in Italy have finished their seasons, Jonah Seif has seen some action as a substitute in both matches of the final series so far. He came off the bench in the third set for Sir Safety Perugia in its 3-0 win over Lube Civitanova on May 1. It was a quick win for Perugia, and Lube never scored more than 18 points in a set. Wilfredo Leon led the match with 10 kills and two blocks.

Lube bounced back on May 5 to even the best-of-five series at one match each with a four-set win. Seif played in the first, second, and fourth sets. Yoandy Leal led Lube with 20 points. Tsvetan Sokolov scored 16 for Lube, including three aces. The series will resume on May 8.

Germany: The Berlin Recycling Volleys bounced back from a defeat in the first match of the finals with a 3-2 win over VfB Friedrichshafen on May 2. Kyle Russell came off the bench in the first set and started the rest of the match at opposite, scoring a match-high 26 points. Russell scored on 24 kills, one block, and one ace while hitting .241. Jeff Jendryk scored 10 in the middle on six kills and four blocks. Before being replaced, Ben Patch had put away one kill in the first set.

VfB Friedrichshafen took back the series lead with a 3-1 victory on May 5. Kyle Russell got the start at opposite for Berlin and scored 17 on 15 kills and two aces. He improved his attack efficiency, hitting .313 on the night. Jendryk scored 11 points on six kills and five blocks with a .600 attack average. Jendryk did not commit an error or get blocked in attack. The fourth match of the series will take place on May 8.

Michael Saeta celebrates with the Chaumont supporters after defeating Ajaccio on May 3/Chaumont Instagram

France: Ajaccio defeated Chaumont on May 2 to force a third match in the best-of-three semifinal series. Taylor Averill scored 10 points on seven kills, two blocks, and one ace in the 3-1 defeat. Michael Saeta set Chaumont to a .293 hitting percentage and scored six points on two kills, one block, and three aces.

Chaumont bounced back on May 3 to defeat Ajaccio in four sets and earn its place in the finals. Averill scored 10 points again on six kills, two blocks, and two aces. He hit .400 out of the middle. Saeta scored four points of his own while setting Chaumont to a .349 attack average. Saeta put up three blocks to go along with a kill.

Chaumont will face Tours in the final series, starting on May 7. Tours swept Nice in the second match of the semifinal series to advance to the finals. Mitch Stahl did not play for Tours.

Belgium: Knack Roeselare evened the best-of-five final series with a 3-2 victory over Greenyard Maaseik on May 1. Sam Holt was used as a substitute in the first four sets but did not finish with any points for Roeselare.

Maaseik took back the lead in the series on May 4 with a 3-0 sweep. Holt played in the first and third sets but did not earn any kills on three attempts. The series will pick back up on May 8 with Maaseik needing just one more win to earn the title.

Greece: Garrett Muagututia and PAOK Thessaloniki fell down 0-2 to Olympiakos in a best-of-five series for the Hellenic Volleyball League title. Olympiakos opened the series with a sweep on May 3. Muagututia opened the series with 11 kills on 21 swings. On May 6 he finished a 3-1 defeat with nine points, including eight kills. The next match in the series will take place on May 9.

Looking Ahead
Russia: Kuzbass Kemerovo vs. Zenit Kazan, May 7 — Kazan is in a situation it has not found itself over the past six seasons: with its back against the wall. Zenit has lost three times in the Russian Super League regular season and playoffs this year. To put that into perspective, that is more defeats than the last last three seasons combined. The last time Zenit had more than one loss in the postseason was in 2013 when Belogorie Belgorod knocked it out of the playoffs in the semifinals. Another loss this season will tie Zenit with its most losses after 2011.

France: Chaumont vs. Tours, May 7, 10, and 11 (if necessary) — Both of these teams faced each other last year in the finals of the French Ligue A playoffs, with Tours VB reclaiming the crown after two years of not hoisting the trophy. The winners of seven titles (including five of the last seven) have been on top of the standings for all of 2019. Chaumont has been lingering in the middle of the standings, finally landing at sixth position. Saeta and Averill have made a run through the playoffs, defeating the third and second seeds. While finishing at significantly different positions in the standings, Chaumont and Tours played a pair of five-set matches during the regular season with each team claiming a victory.

Germany: Berlin Recycling Volleys vs. VfB Friedrichshafen, May 8 and May 11 (if necessary) — Berlin was the hottest team coming into the playoffs of the German Bundesliga, but Friedrichshafen has been the strongest team thus far in the postseason. The top seed in the playoffs did not lose a match in the quarterfinals or semifinals, and only lost one set in those five matches. Its only loss of the entire playoffs was in five sets at Berlin in the second match of the final series. Berlin has been tested throughout the playoffs but keeps responding. It is on its last leg and must take the next two matches in order to win its tenth championship. Berlin was in a similar situation in 2017 when it needed to win two consecutive matches to claim the crown, and it came through. Kyle Russell has earned his way back into the lineup for Berlin. He has produced great amounts of points, but suffered in terms of hitting efficiency. Berlin will need to be firing on all cylinders to force the series into a fifth match.

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