U.S. men’s international notebook: How they fared, plus a CEV Champions preview

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Erik Shoji and Fakel remain undefeated in the Russian Super League after a 3-2 win this weekend/Russian Volleyball Federation photo (volley.ru)

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

This edition of the notebook includes recaps of American competing in:
Brazil, Italy, Poland, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland,  Switzerland, and the Champions League

We also highlight interesting matches to pay attention to this upcoming week and a comprehensive preview of the fourth round of the CEV Champions League.

Brazil: Taylor Sander had a rare lackluster outing for Sada Cruzeiro in their 3-0 win over Caramuru Volei on Friday. Sander finished with just six points from three kills, 2 blocks, and a service ace. His three kills came alongside four attack errors and a -.091 hitting percentage. Kevin LeRoux, middle blocker from France lef Sada Cruzeiro with 11 points on seven kills, three blocks, and one ace. LeRoux finished the match with a perfect 1.000 attack average. Sada Cruzeiro is 5-1 and still in first place, though it has played two more matches than the rest of the league to make up for the rounds taking place while it is taking part in the FIVB Club World Championships.

Price Jarman scored six points in the middle for Volei Um Itapeininga in its 3-1 victory against Fiat/Minas. Jarman hit .833 without an attack error on his way to five kills. He also contributed a block in his team’s second win of the season. Itapeininga is currently 2-2 and sits in seventh place.

Italy: Cucine Lube Civitanova surpassed Azimut Leo Shoes Modena at second place in the standings after a 3-2 win on Sunday. Micah Christenson set Modena to a .303 hitting percentage in the five-set loss. Ivan Zaytsev led the team and match with 28 points on 25 kills and three aces with a .356 attack average. Max Holt scored 10 points on five kills, three blocks, and two aces. He hit .300 for the match. Lube got 22 points from both Tsvetan Sokolov and Yoandry Leal, though Sokolov only hit .235. Osmany Junatorena contributed 18 points for Lube, and Brenden Sander did not feature in the match.

Aaron Russell scored 12 points for Itas Trentino in a 3-0 win over Calzedonia Verona. His points came on 10 kills and two blocks as he hit .304. Trentino also got 13 points each from the other outside hitter, Uros Kovacevic, who had 11 kills and two aces. One of the most impressive feats for Trentino was holding Stephen Boyer, the leading scorer in the Italian SuperLega, to only 11 points and a .034 hitting percentage.

Kupono Fey was used as a reserve and started the final two sets for Globe Banca Popolare del Frusinate Sora in its 3-1 victory over Vero Volley Monza. Fey scored 12 points on 10 kills and two blocks in the win with a .750 attack average. Dusan Petkovic, last year’s leading scorer in the SuperLega, led the match with 21 points. Sora is now 3-5 and is in 11th place.

Jonah Seif was used as a substitute in the first and third sets of Sir Safety Conad Perugia’s 3-0 victory over BCC Castellana Grotte. Perugia was again led by Wilfredo Leon on 16 points on 12 kills and four aces. The Polish outside hitter from Cuba hit an astounding .789. He is now leading the SuperLega in scoring with 6.04 points per set. Leon is also the most efficient attacker in the league with a .575 hitting percentage and the best server in the league at 1.30 aces per set. Perugia is a perfect 8-0 on 24 points and is in first place by six points.

Poland: Asseco Resovia Rzeszów finally earned its first win of the season on Friday against Trefl Gdańsk in four sets. Kawika Shoji and Nicolas Szerszen were not utilized by Resovia. Dave Smith started and scored six points in the middle on five kills and three aces with a .333 hitting percentage. Resovia was led by 26 points by Damian Schulz and Thibault Rossard chipped in 23. That win sets Resovia on the right track heading into the FIVB Club World Championships next week.

Russia: Zenit Kazan was in action twice this past week. It played Ural Ufa on Wednesday to make up a match that will be missed due to the FIVB Club World Championships. Kazan easily won in a sweep with 14 points from Matt Anderson and 19 from Maxim Mikhailov. Anderson finished with 12 kills and two aces while hitting .579. Earvin N’Gapeth had yet to get into much of a scoring rhythm in Russia, only scoring seven points with a .188 hitting percentage.

Zenit Kazan made a statement with a 3-1 win over Zenit St. Petersburg, the runners up from last season. N’Gapeth scored 13 points on 10 kills, two blocks, and 1 ace with a .300 hitting percentage. Anderson struggled a bit, hitting .190 with 10 kills, one block, and one ace. Mikhailov led the way again with 26 points in the win. Gyorgy Grozer paced St. Petersburg with 12 points from 11 kills and a service ace.

Kazan moved into first place with the extra match, but Fakel Nova Urengoy (Torch) dropped a point when it took five sets to defeat Gazprom-Yugra Surgut. Erik Shoji passed 62 percent of his receptions positively with 33 percent being rated as perfect. Dmitry Volkov scored 22 points for Fakel with Egor Kliuka right behind with 20. Kazan and Fakel join Lokomotiv Novosibirsk as the last unbeaten teams in the Russian Super League.

Germany: The Berlin Recycling Volleys went from an incredible high to a crushing low this past week. On Wednesday the team went on the road and defeated rival VfB Friedrichshafen.

Berlin rallied back from a 1-2 deficit to claim the victory in the tiebreak. Jeff Jendryk scored eight points on six kills and two blocks. Kyle Russell came into the match in the second set at opposite for Ben Patch and scored 14 points from 10 kills, two blocks, 2 aces, but he only hit .136. Patch scored seven points on six kills and one block with a .250 attack average. Dustin Watten led the match with 48 percent of his receptions being positive and 29 percent being perfect without a single passing error. Samuele Tuia led Berlin with 23 points.

On Sunday Berlin got swept at home by Tanner Syftestad and United Volleys Frankfurt. Syftestad was used as a substitute in all three sets and his team was led by Milija Mrdak’s 18 points. Patch started for Berlin at opposite and scored 12 points on 11 kills and one block. He hit .320 in the loss. Jendryk scored three points from two kills and a block, but he hit .000. Kyle Russell scored a point from one kill with a .000 attack average. He was used as a substitute in the first and third sets. Watten only had six service receptions with 67 percent of them being positive and 50 percent being perfect. The loss keeps Berlin at third place being HYPO TIROL Alpenvolleys Unterhaching and VfB Friedrichshafen.

Matthew Pollock scored 4 points in the middle for HYPO TIROL AlpenVolleys Unterhaching in a 3-1 win over HELIOS GRIZZLYS Giesen. Pollock scored on two kills, two blocks, and hit .333 for on the night. He started and played in the first two sets. Antwain Aguillard started the match at middle for Giesen. The former 49er from Long Beach State only played in the first set and earned a kill on three attempts.

Griffin Shields came off the bench and scored nine points for WWK Volleys Herrsching in a 3-1 defeat to VfB Friedrichshafen. He started the last two sets and scored on eight kills and one block. Nick West started for Herrsching and scored two points, but was replaced after the second set due to a minus .200 hitting percentage.

Cody Kessel scored 23 points for SVG Lüneburg, but it was not enough. His team dropped a 3-2 decision to SWD powervolleys Duren. Kessel, formerly of Princeton, hit .462 on his way to 20 kills, two blocks, and one ace. Daniel Ford did not make an appearance in the match for Duren.

Mitch Penning scored eight of his points in the middle as TV Rottenburg swept Netzhoppers SolWo Königspark KW. Penning had eight kills and hit .800 without committing an attack error.

France: Chaumont VB 53 dropped their second match of the season and fell to eighth place in the league standings. One must keep in mind that Chaumont has played two less matches than most others due to a rescheduled match for the Champions League and already having a bye week. Michael Saeta started the match on Saturday against Montpellier and played the first three sets. He led Chaumont to to victories in the first two sets and set his team to a .240 hitting percentage after the third set. Saeta was replaced in the fourth set and Chaumont dropped the next two sets. Taylor Averill scored 13 points on seven kills, three blocks, and three aces.

Mitch Stahl did not play for Tours VB in its 3-0 win over Arago de Sete. They remain in second place behind Rennes on points as they both have 5-2 records.

Belgium: Brett Walsh started in the middle for Knack Roeselare and scored two points on a kill and a block in a 3-0 win over Axis Guibertin. Walsh hit 1.000 on the night. Sam Holt did not start the match, but he came off the bench in the first set and finished the match at the outside hitter position. Holt scored eight points on seven kills and a block. Roeselare is in first place in Belgium with a perfect 6-0 record.

Czech Republic: Jalen Penrose was used as a substitute in VK Karoslavo’s 3-0 win over Fatra Zlin. Penrose came off the bench in the first set and played the rest of the match, scoring seven points on seven kills with a .143.

Kevin Gear scored 6 points in the middle for VK Odolena Voda in a 3-2 loss to VK Lvi Praha. Gear hit .143 on his way to three kills and three blocks. Matt Walsh came off the bench and scored eight points on five kills, two blocks, and an ace. He came off the bench in the second set for VK Odolen Voda and hit .714.

Mitch Beal was not featured in VK Ostrava’s 3-0 win over VK Benátky nad Jizerou.

Finland: Oliver Martin was used as a substitute in the first and third sets and scored two points for Team Lakkapää in the club’s 3-0 loss to Etta Oulu. He started the third set in a 3-0 loss to Hurrikaani Loimaa and scored two points on a kills and a block.

Matt West set Hurrikaani Loimaa to a .382 hitting percentage in his team’s 3-2 loss to Savo Volley. West also contributed three kills and a block. His team bounced back the next day to defeat Team Lakkapää, as mentioned earlier. West set Hurrikanni Loimaa to a.385 attack average in the sweep.

Arvis Greene did not play this past weekend for VaLePa in two sweeps over Akaa Volley and the Vantaa Ducks.

Switzerland: Scott Fifer and TV Schönenwerd beat TSV Jona Volleyball in in four sets. Fifer set TV Schönenwerd to a .255 hitting percentage as a team.

Lucas Yoder led his team with 20 points as Biogas Volley Näfels fell to Volley Amriswil in four sets. Yoder hit .467 on his way to 16 kills, three blocks, and a service ace.

Champions League: Chaumont VB 53 of France defeated Vojvodina NS Seme Novi Sad of Serbia on Tuesday. Chaumont only needed to take the two sets from Vojvodina in order to advance, and that was accomplished quickly. Taylor Averill led all scorers as a middle blocker with 12 points on eight kills, three blocks, and a service ace. Averill hit .889 in the first two sets before being replaced in the third set when the outcome had already been decided. Michael Saeta came in to set the third set for Chaumont and scored a point on one attack attempt as his team took the last set and secured a 3-0 sweep. He also set Chaumont to a .588 hitting percentage in the final set of the match. Chaumont will be a part of Pool C in the fourth round.

United Volleys Frankfurt from the German Bundesliga also booked a ticket to the Fourth Round with a 3-1 victory over PAOK Thessaloniki of Greece. As with Chaumont, United Volleys only needed to win two sets in order to qualify for the Fourth Round, and that was done in the first two sets of the match. Tanner Syftestad came onto the court as a substitute in the third set and scored two points on two kills with a .000 attack average. He bounced back in the fourth set, hitting .500 on his way to six kills. Syftestad scored also added two aces in the fourth and final set to finish the match with 12 points.

Looking ahead
Champions League: Cucine Lube Civitanova vs. Azimut Leo Shoes Modena, November 22
These teams played on Sunday, but are back at it to start the fourth round of the Champions League to open Pool B. The match on Sunday went five sets behind 28 points from Ivan Zaytsev. This match also puts Micah Christenson back on the court against the team he started his career with.

Belgium: Knack Roeselare vs. Lindemans Aalst, November 24
Knack Roeselare will face their first real test in domestic play against Lindemans Aalst. Both teams qualified for the Champions League this year (though Aalst was eliminated in the First Round), and both teams are in the top three places in the league standings. Aalso is coming off of its first loss of the season to second-placed Greenyard Maaseik. Matt Walsh and Sam Holt both contributed in Roselare’s match last week and will have a big match on Tuesday against Halkbank Ankara.

Russia: Fakel Nova Urengoy vs. Kuzbass Kemerovo,, November 22
This match will take place earlier in the week since Fakel will be heading to the FIVB Club World Championships as a wild card. This will be the first time that Erik Shoji and Fakel will be playing a team in the top half of the standings. Kuzbass has been riding the shoulder of Victor Poleatev and the hands of Igor Kobzar. Both of these players have been instrumental in winning championships at Zenit Kazan. Poleatev started in the Russian Super League finals at the age of 18 when Maxim Mikhailov. Kuzbass sits in fourth place with Fakel in second.

Champions League Preview
The third round of the CEV Champions League concluded on Tuesday, and the last two teams have advanced to the group stage. Over the past six weeks a total of 16 teams competed in three rounds for the spot to join the 18 teams already qualified for the fourth round. Each team will play every other team twice in a home-and-away situation. The team which wins the pool and the three teams finishing in second place with the highest point totals will advance to the playoffs.

Fourth round
Pool A: Zenit Kazan, Russian champions; United Volleys Frankfurt, German third place; Halkbank Ankara, Turkish champion; Knack Roselare, Belgian runner up

Matt Anderson is playing phenomenal at the outside hitter position for Zenit Kazan after playing the summer on the right side with the United States National Team. Since the departure of Wilfredo Leon, Anderson’s point production has increased 134 percent thus far in the season. The addition of Earvin N’Gapeth brings some flair to the lineup, though his greatest influence so far in the season has come by way of his defense and passing.

United Volleys Frankfurt made reach the Fourth Round after playing through six matches in six weeks all over Europe. Tanner Syftestad has gotten some court time in his rookie season from UCSD. Moritz Karlitzek has emerged as the dominating force in that lineup. Frankfurt is 2-1 and in sixth place at the moment in the German Bundesliga.

Halkbank Ankara won the Turkish Super Cup earlier in the season and is currently in third position in the Turkish league with a 4-1 record. Michele Baranowicz is manning the helm of the offense and Drazen Luburic emerged this summer as a powerful option at opposite. Halkbank has to be favored to reach second place in the pool, but it will probably have to take Zenit Kazan to five sets in order to solidify itself as one of the top three runners up in the group stage to advance to the playoffs.

Knack Roeselare has become a fixture in this tournament in recent years and is currently in first place in Belgium with a 5-0 record. Sam Holt is now on the roster and led the team with 18 points this past weekend at outside hitter. Holt has only started two of the five matches so far, so it is unknown what his role will be moving forward in the Fourth Round.

Pool B: Cucine Lube Civitanova, Italian runner up; Azimut Leo Shoes Modena, Italian third place; ZAKSA Kedzierzyn-Kozle,  Polish runner up, VK Cez Karlovarsko, Czech Republic champion.

This pool has the potential to be brutal. Lube and ZAKSA both reached the Final Four in last year’s edition of the tournament, and Modena might be the strongest in the pool right now. Micah Christenson has established a great connection with Ivan Zaytsev, and he already has a phenomenal rapport with Max Holt from the US National Team. Modena won the Italian SuperCoppa and is 6-1 in the SuperLega (with a loss to Perugia).

Lube has put together a superstar lineup after taking second place in the Club World Championships, the Champions League, the Italian Cup, and the Italian SuperLega last season. Tsvetan Sokolov has gotten healthy from his surgery, Bruno has come to take over setting duties, and the Cuban duo of Yoandy Leal and Robertlandy Simon has arrived. Brenden Sander is spending his rookie season with the club, but has not made an appearance in a match yet. Lube’s only losses have come to Modena in the Italian SuperCoppa and Perugia in the Italian SuperLega.

ZAKSA has been playing top-notch volleyball in Poland with a 7-0 record. The roster is full of players on various national teams: Mateusz Bienek, Benjamin Toniutti, Pawel Zatorski, Aleksander Sliwka, Lukasz Kaczmarek, and Sam Deroo. ZAKSA has yet to win a medal at the Champions League, but if it can advance out of this pool then it should like its chance to make a run through the playoffs.

Karlovarsko is more than likely punching out of its weight class in this pool. Jalen Penrose and his teammates from the Czech Republic are enjoying a perfect 7-0 start to the Czech Extraliiga, but that is a league that has not found much success in this competition.

Pool C: Zenit St. Petersburg, Russian runner up; ACH Volley Ljubljana, Slovenian champion; VfB Friedrichshafen, German runner up; Chaumont 52 VB, French runner up.

Zenit St. Petersburg made an impressive run to the finals of the Russian Super League last season to earn a place in the Champions League. This season the team from St. Petersburg enjoys a 3-1 record and has added Gyorgy Grozer to a successful lineup. Lukas Divis and Oreol Camejo have been putting up impressive numbers on the left side as well. Though the club does not have history (on its second year of existence), its roster has a great deal of quality.

ACH Volley was once one of the best clubs in all of Europe and is currently 5-0 in the Slovenian league. Though the club has a great deal of domestic success, it has not been able to get past the group stage of the Champions League in the past five years.

VfB Friedrichshafen has been playing great volleyball domestically in Germany and has a history of winning this tournament. It will be tough for Friedrischshafen to advance out of the group, as beating Chaumont twice and taking Zenit St. Petersburg to five sets might become a requirement to be one of the best three teams finishing the Fourth Round in second place.

Chaumont 52 VB has put together a solid run of six matches to get to the group stage since the departure of Stephen Boyer (the leading scorer in the Italian SuperLega with Verona). Taylor Averill has been scoring at will from the middle blocker position, but that has been against competition which would not be considered elite. The club’s struggles to put away matches before the fifth set in the French Ligue A might show that playing Zenit St. Petersburg and VfB Friedrichshafen could be too tall a task to reach the playoffs.

Pool D: PGE Skra Belchatow, Polish champion; Trefl Gdansk, Polish third place; Berlin Recycling Volleys, German champion; Greenyard Maaseik, Belgian champion

It is easy to think that the Polish teams will be finish at the top of the pool, but Berlin has been getting stronger as the season progresses. Jeff Jendryk has been having a phenomenal rookie season, routinely scoring double-digit points as a middle blocker. Dustin Watten is alway reliable in serve receive and provides a spark on defense. Ben Patch is now back with the team and has worked himself into the lineup at opposite. Kyle Russell has also provided some impressive outings at opposite in the absence of Patch. This is a club that has reached the playoffs five of the last six years.

PGE Skra Belchatow has already lost three matches this season in Poland and sits in seventh place. While it is not wise to expect that the defending PlusLiga champions will stay that far down the table, there needs to be a source of production other than Mariusz Wlazly. Skra has beaten Trefl Gdansk in the Polish Super Cup back on October 27th.

Trefl Gdank is also experiencing a disappointing start to the season with a 3-3 record thus far. Andrea Anastasi has experience beating teams with deeper lineups, so one cannot count out Gdansk just yet. Gdansk has still not found an answer for the loss of Mateusz Mika and someone needs to emerge in addition to Maciej Muzaj.

Greenyard Maaseik is currently in third place in the Belgian league with a 4-0 record. Jelte Maan is scoring at a rate of 4.57 points per set in domestic play. Seppe Baetens is the most effective passer and the most efficient in attack in Belgium. Maaesik’s challenge will be familiar, as it will have to translate success in Belgium into success against teams from stronger leagues.

Pool E: Sir Safety Conad Perugia, Italian champion; Dynamo Moscow, Russian third place; Tours VB, French champion; Arkas Izmir, Turkish runner up.

Sir Safety Conad Perugia is the favorite in this pool. Since losing two matches in the Italian SuperCoppa, Perugia has been on a tear with a perfect 7-0 record. That impeccable form in the Italian SuperLega includes wins over Modena and Trentino. Wilfredo Leon is the second-leading scorer Italy with 5.96 points per set and the leading server at 1.26 aces per set. Leon is also the most efficient attacker in the Italian SuperLega as well. Aleksandar Atanasijevic is the seventh-best scorer in the league with 4.62 points per set.

Dynamo Moscow is having a tough time getting wins against teams in the top half of the standings in the Russian Super League. The club is 2-2 right now with losses to the other Russian teams in the Champions League (Zenit St. Petersburg and Zenit Kazan). Dick Kooy has been leading the way along with Pavel Kruglov.

Tours VB is a club that is used to Champions League success. The team has already dropped two matches in the French Ligue A, one to Chaumont. Herman Egleskalns has established himself as a leader from the right side. Mitch Stahl is still working to get himself into the lineup.

Arkas Izmir has had some early struggles in the Turkish league with a 3-2 record. Murilo Radke from Brazil has established himself as the setter. On paper it looks difficult for a team made primarily of Turkish players to pull off the upsets needed against Dynamo and Perugia, but Turkish teams seem to have had a knack for overachieving in this tournament.

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