International men: Anderson, Zenit Kazan fall short in bid for CEV title

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Matt Anderson and Zenit Kazan started strong, but fell to Lube in his last match with the club/CEV.lu photo

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.

The men’s professional international volleyball season wrapped up last week with just one match as one American player was looking to leave his club on a high note. There were a few transfers that took place over the weekend that will see players finding new homes or starting pro careers.

All 9,200 people in the capacity crowd at the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin saw Zenit Kazan get out the best possible start to the CEV Champions League final on May 18. Vadym Likhosherstov picked up three blocks in the first set in the middle, and Kazan opened the match with an 8-2 lead. The winners of the last four editions of the tournament played solid defense at the net that funneled attacks back to Alexey Verbov in the back row. Very few attack attempts from Lube Civitanova got Kazan out of system. While Lube gained some momentum later in the set, Kazan looked like it was well on its way to a fifth consecutive title with a 25-16 win.

Matt Anderson hits against the block of Bruno and Simon/CEV.lu photo

While Matt Anderson hit .500 with nine kills and just one error, the same could not be said for the rest of the Kazan lineup. Anderson finished the match with 12 points, adding two blocks and an ace to his point total. Earvin N’Gapeth led Kazan with 10 kills, but those kills were accompanied by eight errors. The Frenchman in his first season with Kazan only hit .071. On top of that, only four percent of his receptions were classified as excellent. His impact diminished greatly as the match wore on. Maxim Mikhailov, the most valuable player of the 2018 Champions League, was on par with Anderson with nine kills. Similar to N’Gapeth, his kills came with seven attack errors. The Russian opposite only hit .087.

Kazan’s middle blockers only accounted for 11 points. Likhosherstov’s three blocks early in the first set were the only blocks he recorded for the match. He produced two kills on four attempts and was replaced by Alexey Samoylenko in the third set. Samoylenko finished with one kill and one error with two blocks. Artem Volvich scored three points on three kills with a .143 attack average.

Lube was lead by a varied attack from the pins with Yoandy Leal (15), Tsvetan Sokolov (17), and Osmany Juantorena (14) all matching Kazan’s leading scorer. Juantorena was the most valuable player of the competition and hit .526 from the outside. His 12 kills came alongside a pair of blocks. Yoandy Leal, who will be playing with Brazil this summer, led the match with five aces from the service line. He also contributed a block and nine kills with a .250 hitting percentage. Tsvetan Sokolov, who played last year’s Champions League final on a knee requiring surgery, put away 11 kills, two aces, and a match-high four blocks.

Robertlandy Simon led all middle blockers with nine points on six blocks, two kills, and an ace. He posted a .500 hitting percentage in the middle. Dragan Stankovic hit .000 in the middle, but scored six points on one kill, three blocks, and two aces. Bruno Rezende, in his first season at Lube, set his squad to a .324 attack average en route to the championship.

This was Lube Civitanova’s second CEV Champions League title after winning the tournament in 2002. It is the fourth club to win the competition more than once, joining Zenit Kazan (6), Trentino (3), and Belogorie Belgorod (3).

That was, of course, Anderson’s last match with Zenit Kazan. Anderson has played there for the past seven seasons. He arrived there after playing a season at Modena in 2011-2012. During his time in Kazan, he won Russian Super League championships in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018. The club won the championship in 2015, but Anderson was not with the team for that competition. He took a break from volleyball in the fall of 2014. When he returned to the club in January of 2015, the club had signed Saeid Marouf, the setter from Iran. Due to only two foreign players allowed in the team for Russian competitions, Anderson could only participate in the CEV Champions League.

During that 2014-2015 season, Anderson and Kazan won its first of four consecutive CEV Champions League titles with a sweep of Asseco Resovia. Anderson claimed titles the next three seasons after defeating Trentino, Perugia, and Lube. Kazan also won the FIVB Club Championship in 2017 after losing to Sada Cruzeiro in the finals in 2015 and 2016. Anderson leaves Kazan with his jersey hanging in the rafters. He and Lloy Ball are the only American players to have received this honor from the Russian Club. Anderson will suit up for Modena next season. He will play alongside fellow Americans Micah Christenson and Max Holt.

Transfers: Mitch Stahl will be staying in France but joining his opponents from the French Ligue A finals. Stahl will be playing for Chaumont 53 VB next season. He won the French championships with Tours this season, but did not get much playing time down the stretch and into the playoffs. He will be playing for the French runners-up, who reached the playoffs of the CEV Champions League this season. Stahl’s addition to the lineup is a great indicator that Taylor Averill is on his way out. The latest rumors have him going to Poland, but he has not yet been announced as a signing for any club in the Polish PlusLiga.

Kyle Dagostino will start his career at ACH Volley in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Dagostino just finished his collegiate career at Stanford, tallying 414 digs in his career. While he spent some time at setter during his first three seasons at Stanford, he finished his collegiate career and will start his professional career as a libero. Dagostino has been selected by John Speraw for the initial FIVB Volleyball Nations League roster. He will be heading to a club that just won a Slovenian championship and a Middle European Zone Volleyball Association championship. Dagostino and the club also qualified for the Champions League next season.

Simon transfer paid off: Robertlandy Simon was the subject of a controversial transfer to Lube last summer, after seemingly abandoning Sada Cruzeiro while still under contract. After fleeing Brazil with his pregnant wife to Miami, Florida, he gave an interview to Brazilian journalist, Bruno Voloch, where he stated he wanted his child to be born in Italy and have Italian citizenship.

When asked about his contractual obligations to Sada Cruzeiro, Simon responded “These are legal issues that I can not answer. I believe that intelligent people always come up with a solution. They know that my intention is not to return and also know the contractual problems.”

Simon eventually ended up in Italy, appearing in a video posted by Osmany Juantorena. While there were were threats of legal action by Sada Cruzeiro and appeals to the FIVB, Lube announced Simon as an official transfer on July 18, 2018. The acquisition paid off well, resulting in two titles and a runner-up finish at the FIVB Club World Championships. He averaged 10.7 points per match and 2.87 points per set in the Champions League as a middle blocker.

Lube Civitanova honors Sander: Lube Civitanova completed two monumental tasks last week, winning the Italian SuperLega and CEV Champions League. One player not celebrating with the club was Brenden Sander. The rookie outside hitter from BYU signed with Lube to fill a need the club had in the wake of Jiri Kovar’s doping suspension.

Being a rookie at such a big club, Sander only played in two regular season and one Champions League match. He was granted permission to leave the club early on May 7 to take part in the Korean league tryouts in order to potentially get drafted to a team for next season.

Though he was not longer a part of the team, the squad posed for a picture with both trophies and Sander’s jersey, “Because Brenden Sander is also a part of this double.”

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