This is Blair Lambert’s 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

This edition includes recaps of Americans competing in Italy, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, and Norway. A few of these countries continued cup competitions, Russia finished its cup, and plenty of other nations continued domestic leagues.

We also have a preview of the CEV Champions League matches this week and the top three matches to pay attention to the week before Christmas.

Italy: There were a few matches on Wednesday as Itas Trentino and Cucine Lube Civitanova needed to make up matches they missed while taking part in the FIVB Club World Championships the last week of November. Lube took care of business against Top Volley Latina. Brenden Sander was not used by Lube in the match, and Osmany Juantorena led the way with 19.

Aaron Russell scored 11 points for Trentino on Wednesday in a 3-0 win over a hot Revivre Axopower Milano team. Russell hit .316 on his way to nine kills, one ace, and one block. Srecko Lisinac also scored 11 points in the middle for Trentino while Uros Kovacevic led the way with 12.

That win moved Trentino into second place, just one point behind Sir Safety Conad Perugia and one point ahead of Azimut Shoes Modena heading into the weekend.. Perugia, Modena, Trentino and Lube were all sitting at 9-2 heading into the twelfth round of matches. Modena played Trentino for second place on Sunday.

While Modena took the first set of that match, 26-24, Trentino stormed back to take the next three and the match. Aaron Russell was the match MVP with 20 points on 18 kills, a block, and an ace with a .429 attack average. Uros Kovacevic posted 21 points on 18 kills and three aces while hitting .243. Ivan Zaytsev scored 20 points for Modena on 16 kills, two blocks, two aces, and hit .257. Max Holt, in his first match back on the court after a bout with vertigo, scored seven points in the middle for Modena on four kills, two blocks, one ace, and a .200 hitting percentage. Micah Christenson set Modena to a .267 hitting percentage compared to Gianelli setting Trentino to an attack average of .359.

That loss moved Modena down to fourth place after Lube Civitanova beat BCC Castellana Grotte in four sets. Osmany Juantorena finished the match with 18 points for Lube and Yoandy Leal contributed 15 in the win. Brenden Sander did not feature in the match for Lube Civitanova.

Perugia remained in first place with a one-point lead in the standings over Trentino after a 3-1 victory against Globo Banca Popolare del Frusinate Sora on Sunday. Wilfredo Leon hit .526 from the outside on his way to 12 kills. Leon also scored six points from the service line. Aleksandar Atanasijevic scored 23 points from 15 kills, two blocks, and six aces with a .346 hitting percentage. Jonah Seif was used as a substitute for Perugia in the third set and did not record any points. Kupono Fey was used as a substitute for Sora in the second and third sets, while starting the fourth, Fey did not score any points.

Russia: The Russian Cup finished this past weekend with the semifinals and finals. Matt Anderson and Zenit Kazan defeated Kuzbass Kemerovo on Friday 3-1. Anderson scored 11 points on eight kills, two blocks, and one ace, though only hit .107.

In the other semifinal, Erik Shoji and Fakel Nova Urengoy dropped a 3-1 decision to Zenit St. Petersburg. Shoji led the match with 47 percent of his service receptions being rated as positive. Gyorgy Grozer led the match for Zenit St. Petersburg with 26 points on 19 kills, two blocks, and a match-high five aces.

Kazan won the battle of the Zenits in four sets on Saturday behind 20 points from Maxim Mikhailov (15 kills, one block, four aces). Matt Anderson chipped in 15 points on nine kills, two blocks, and four aces with a .368 hitting percentage. Gyorgy Grozer was the match’s leading scorer for St. Petersburg. The German opposite scored 22 points from 19 kills, two blocks, and one ace.

This is the eighth time Zenit Kazan has won the Russian Cup, and that ties Belogorie for the most in the history of the tournament. Kazan has won the last five editions of the competition. Belogorie was the last team not from Kazan to win the tournament back in 2013.

Poland: Asseco Resovia Rzeszów finally picked up its second win of the PlusLiga season with a 3-2 victory over Chemik Bydgoszcz. Kawika Shoji started the match at setter, setting the team to a .324 hitting percentage after the first three sets, though Shoji was replaced by Łukasz Kozub in the third set. Dave Smith entered the match in the third set at middle blocker and scored seven points on five kills and two blocks with a .833 attack average.

Resovia followed it up with a 3-0 sweep of Cuprum Lubin on Sunday. Dave Smith got the start in the middle and produced nine points from five kills, one block, and three aces. Smith also hit a perfect 1.000 by virtue of five kills on five attempts. Kawika Shoji was not used in the match for Resovia.

MKS Będzin dropped a quick match to Chemik Bydgoszcz in which Jake Langlois led the team with 12 points on 11 kills and an ace. Langlois was impressive in attack with a .588 hitting percentage from the left side.

Brazil: Taylor Sander had a big match for Sada Cruzeiro as it knocked off league-leading SESC-RJ. Sander led the match with 16 points on 14 kills an two aces with a .247 hitting percentage. He also led the match with 81 percent of his service receptions being rated as positive. Sada Cruzeiro is in second place, but has played one less match than SESC-RJ.

Price Jarman scored eight points in a 3-0 loss for Volei Um Itapetininga to SESI-SP. Jarman scored on four kills, three blocks, an ace, and hit .571 without committing an attack error.

Germany: The semifinals of the German Cup took place on Wednesday. SVG Luneburg scored a dramatic 3-2 win over the Berlin Recycling Volleys. Cody Kessel put away 19 kills in addition to four blocks and an ace with a remarkable .586 hitting percentage from the left side. Jeff Jendryk hit .500 in a 10-point performance. His points came from six kills, three blocks, and one ace. Ben Patch started the match at opposite and played in the first four sets, scoring 16 points on 16 kills with a .400 attack average. Kyle Russell came off the bench in the fourth set, scoring six points on four kills and two blocks with a .000 hitting percentage. Dustin Watten did not play.

In the other semifinal, VfB Friedrichshafen defeated SWD powervolleys Duren 3-1. Daniel Ford was not utilized by Duren.

SVG Luneburg followed up with a 3-1 victory over Helios Grizzlys Giesen in the Bundesliga on Saturday. Cody Kessel started the first two sets and came off the bench in the third. He finished the match with four points on one kill and three blocks with a .333 hitting percentage. Antwain Aguillard was used as a substitute in the first, third, and fourth sets fourth sets but did not score a point for Helios Grizzlys Giesen.

Ben Patch led Berlin with 16 points in a 3-0 victory over Netzhoppers SolWo Königspark KW. Patch hit .435 on his way to 14 kills and two aces. Jeff Jendryk scored seven points on six kills and one block with an .857 attack average. Dustin Watten played the whole match at libero for Berlin and led the match in serve receive with 75 percent of his passes being rated as perfect.

Jake Arnitz scored nine points for Volleyball Bisons Buhl in a sweep of TV Rottenburg. His points came on eight kills with a .111 hitting percentage and one block. Mitch Penning recorded six points on six kills for Rottenburg while hitting .625.

Tanner Syftestad was used as a substitute for the United Volleys Frankfurt in a sweep of WWK Volleys Herrsching. Syftestad played in the first and second sets. Nicholas West started the first two sets at opposite for Herrsching and scored five points from three kills, one block, and one ace. West struggled with a minus .071 hitting percentage and was replaced by Griffin Shields in the second set. Shields finished the match at opposite, scoring three points in three kills while hitting .000.

Matthew Pollock scored seven points on four kills and three blocks as Hypo Tirol AlpenVolleys Unterhaching had a 3-2 marathon win over VfB Friedrichshafen. That was Friedrichshafen’s second loss of the season as Unterhaching remained undefeated in first place.

France: Chaumont defeated last-place Cannes in four sets on Saturday. Michael Saeta set Chaumont to a .387 hitting percentage while scoring seven points on five kills, one ace and one block. Taylor Averill scored 13 points in the middle on eight kills and five blocks.

Dan McDonnell scored 15 points for Tourcoing as they earned a point in a 3-2 loss to Ajaccio. McDonnell hit .667 on his way to eleven kills, two blocks, and two aces.

Mitch Stahl did not feature for Tours VB in a 3-2 win over Montpellier.

Belgium: Sam Holt started at outside hitter in Knack Roeselare’s 3-0 victory over Amigos Van Pelt Zoersel. Holt, brother of Max Holt, finished with 13 points on 11 kills and two blocks with a .529 hitting percentage.

Czech Republic: CEZ Karlovarsko earned a sweep over VK Lvi Praha on Saturday and Jalen Penrose was used as a substitute in the in each set. He finished with six points all from kills with a .667 attack average.

Matt Walsh scored 10 points from the middle on three kills, two blocks and a match-high five service aces in AERO Odolena Voda’s 3-1 loss to Volejbalový klub Příbram. Kevin Gear also got the start for Odolena Voda, scoring three points from one kill and two blocks.

Mitch Beal was not utilized by VK Ostrava in a 3-0 win Voleijbol Brno on Saturday..

Finland: Arvis Greene did not play for VaLePa on Wednesday in a 3-0 win over the Vantaa Ducks nor the 3-2 victory against Raision Loimu on Saturday. VaLePa is currently in first place in the Finnish Mestaruusliiga with a 15-3 record.

Matt West set Hurrikaani Loimaa to a .320 hitting percentage in a 3-1 win over Etta Oulu on Wednesday. West followed that up by leading Hurrikaani to a 3-2 win over Raision Loimu by setting his team to a .373 hitting percentage. Hurrikaani is in third place and scored victories over fourth-placed Etta Oulu and third-placed Raision Loimu this past week.

Oliver Martin was not featured in Team Lakkapää’s 3-2 loss to Kokkolan Tiikerit on Wednesday or its 3-1 loss to Savo Volley on Saturday.

Switzerland: Scott Fifer was started the third set for TV Schönenwerd in a quick 3-0 win over TV Schönenwerd. That win puts the club in second place with an 8-2 record and seven points behind Lindaren Volley Amriswil in the standings.

Lucas Yoder started at outside hitter and finished with 13 points for Biogas Volley Nafels in a 3-1 loss to Volley Luzern on Saturday. Yoder scored on nine kills, two blocks, and two aces with a .190 hitting percentage. He was the team’s leading passer with 72 percent of his receptions rated as positive with 44 percent classified as perfect. That loss drops Nafels to seventh out of eight teams in the Swiss league.

Norway: TIF VIking remained in third place of the Mizunoligaen. Ryan Manoogian got the start at libero for the defending Norwegian champions in a 3-2 win over Randaberg IL, finishing with 43 percent of his service receptions classified as positive and 13 percent being perfect.

Looking Ahead
There are a lot of matches taking place throughout the week due to the CEV Champions League being back in action. Due to the new format there has only been one match each month, but that will change at the end of January when the matches will take place every two weeks. They will run from Tuesday through Thursday with a majority of the matches taking place on Wednesday. The fewer teams in the group stage means there are a lot more matches between top-flight teams each round. Every match in pools A and B have American players on the roster. The following is a series of previews for each of the matches this week.

Champions League Pool A
Knack Roeselare vs. Zenit Kazan, December 20 — Matt Anderson and Zenit Kazan are coming off of two quality wins against Kuzbass and Zenit St. Petersburg last weekend to claim the club’s eight Russian Cup. Kazan has also created some separation at the top of the Russian Super League standings, seeming to have put the failure of the Club World Championships in the past. Sam Holt has been in and out of the lineup for Knack Roeselare. After getting a point against Halkbank Ankara confidence could be high, but defending the home court against Kazan could be a tall order.

United Volleys Frankfurt vs. Halkbank Ankara, December 18 — Halkbank Ankara is a perennial competitor in the Champions League but dropped a point after going five sets with Knack Roeselare in the first day of the group stage. United Volleys worked itself through the qualifying round to get to this point and is coming off of a win in Germany. This could be a chance for Tanner Syftestad and his team to steal some points from the Turkish champions.

Champions League Pool B
CEZ Karlovarsko vs. Cucine Lube Civitanova, December 18 — All signs point to this not being too competitive of a match. Lube went through some turmoil about a week ago after a loss to Revivre Axopower Milan and the coach resigning. The club has gotten back on track with a pair of wins in the Italian SuperLega since then. This could be a chance for Brenden Sander to get on the court if the starters get a comfortable lead. Jalen Penrose has been used a substitute lately, but the Penn State alum is coming off of a productive outing this weekend.

Azimut Leo Shoes Modena vs. ZAKSA Kedzierzyn-Kozle, December 19 — This should be the headline match of the week. ZAKSA is coming in undefeated in the Polish PlusLiga, having only gone to five sets once and only dropping seven total sets so far in twelve matches. Modena is coming in after a loss to Trentino in Italy and having lost the opening round of the group stage against Lube. Micah Christenson now has Max Holt back in the middle, and this seems like must-win for Modena. Dropping down to third place with an 0-2 record might be too much to overcome against Lube and ZAKSA.

Champions League Pool C
ACH Volley Ljubljana vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg, December 18 — ACH Volley used to be one of the best teams in Europe, making it to the semifinals and finishing fourth place back in 2010. The club does not have the same resources any longer to bring in top-tier talent, though it is the best club in Slovenia. Gyorgy Grozer will be too much for the Slovenian club and expect St. Petersburg to handle this match quite quickly.

Chaumont VB 52 vs. VfB Friedrichshafen, December 18 — Chaumont was able to continue its winning streak this past week with a win on the French Cup and a sweep in the French Ligue A. Taylor Averill and Michael Saeta will be facing a team in VfB Friedrichshafen that just dropped a tight match in the Bundesliga. Chaumont was almost able to upset Zenit St. Petersburg in a tiebreak, so it might like its chances against the German power.

Champions League Pool D
Greenyard Maaseik vs. PGE Skra Belchatow, December 18 — Greenyard Maaseik is at the top of the Belgian league at this point, but that league is not on par with the Polish PlusLiga. Skra is coming into this match after losing two of its last three matches in Poland. The defending champions in Poland are sitting down in sixth place in the domestic league and failed to qualify for the semifinals at the FIVB Club World Championships. If one is to just look at names on the lineup sheet, then Skra is the favorite, but it would not be smart to overlook Maaseik.

Berlin Recycling Volleys vs. Trefl Gdansk, December 19 — Gdansk is playing even more poorly than Skra in the Polish PlusLiga at the moment, winning only four matches in 11 tries. Berlin is having a difficult time putting together an entire week of good volleyball. While beating Maaseik in the first match of the group stage, it has already lost three matches this early in the Bundesliga and was knocked out of the German Cup. Either Ben Patch or Kyle Russell will need to show up and play a complete match at opposite for Berlin to continue its European success.

Champions League Pool E
Tours VB vs. Sir Safety Perugia, December 19 — It is safe to assume that Mitch Stahl and Jonah Seif will not see a tremendous amount of court time in this match. Seif has been consistently used as a sub for Perugia, the team leading the league standings in Italy. Stahl has not been getting regular court time for Tours, the second-placed team in France at the moment. While Perugia has dropped two matches thus far in the Italian SuperLega, that league is much more deep than the French Liue A. Tours will not have an answer for Wilfredo Leon and Aleksandar Atanasijevic.

Arkas Izmir vs. Dynamo Moscow, December 18 — Both teams are not achieving up to their expectations in their respective domestic leagues, and both are coming off of losses in the first match of the group stage. It is difficult to make a call on this one due to a lack of a sample size of teams in Turkey playing other top-tier opponents so far this season.

Other Matches to Watch
France: Chaumont VB 52 vs. Tourcoing, December 22 –While these are not teams at the top of the French Ligue A standings (though Chaumont is climbing), it does feature two middle blockers from the USA national team. Taylor Averill is having a great debut season in France with Chaumont. Dan McDonnell is back in France with Tourcoing.

Italy: Azimut Leo Shoes Modena vs. Calzedonia Verona, December 23 — In the last match of the first half of the regular season, Modena is facing a Verona team that has slipped up in the form expected of them since Taylor Sander’s debut with the club in 2014. Modena’s slide to fourth place has also been disappointing after the addition of Ivan Zaytsev and Micah Christenson. What might make this a challenging match for Modena is the fact that Matey Zaziyski is now with Verona. The former champion with Trentino signed with Verona after the financial collapse of Stocznia Szczecin. He made his debut with Verona and led them with 21 points.

Germany: SVG Luneburg vs. Berlin Recycling Volleys, December 23 — This will be a chance for Berlin to avenge the loss last week that knocked it out of the German Cup. Cody Kessel put up huge numbers in the win. A loss for Berlin will put them in a very difficult position to claim home court advantage come playoff time. A win for Luneburg will put them in position to claim the home court advantage through the semifinals.

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