This is Blair Lambert’s VolleyballMag.com men’s professional volleyball report, featuring Americans around the world. Got a note about a player or a comment for Blair? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Instagram @blvolley2
With the holiday season beyond us, most leagues are back into their regular schedules, and some never took a holiday break. Americans have produced noteworthy stories and results throughout the world of professional volleyball, including two noteworthy injuries and two brothers competing on opposite sides of the net for the first time.
The two players at the top of the depth chart at the opposite position for Team USA suffered a few setbacks earlier this week.
Ben Patch, starting opposite for Berlin Recycling Volleys, hurt his left ankle back on January 11. The severity of his injury has not been published, but he missed the club’s latest matches this past week.
Matt Anderson had an appendectomy.
Anderson has had a club season marred by misfortune. While he signed with Shanghai in the offseason, the Chinese federation wouldn’t allow foreign players to compete in its league in the attempt to slow the spread of COVID 19. The FIVB ruled that it must honor the contracts it signed with its foreign players, and the league was going to take place in a bubble (similar to the 2020 NBA season) and be shortened to just a month. Positive tests in the region postponed the league and Anderson left the country shortly after arriving there.
Rumors popped up about him signing with Zenit St. Petersburg, Sir Safety Perugia, and Leo Shoes Modena. Instead of those coming to fruition, Anderson had appendicitis and underwent an appendectomy last week. He is currently on the mend with his wife and son.
Taylor and Brenden Sander were opponents when PGE Skra Bełchatów played Cerrad Czarni Radom on December 29, 2020. Both of the brothers attended BYU where each claimed three AVCA first-team All-American awards (Taylor earning second-team honors once as well), they both earned All-MPSF honors all four years in college. They also both started their professional careers in Italy: Taylor with Calzedonia Verona in 2014 and Brenden with Lube Civitanova in 2018.
This season marks the first time the two Sanders are playing in the same league. Brenden is in his third professional season, and it is his second year in the Polish PlusLiga with Cerrad Czarni Radom. This is Taylor’s sixth season of professional volleyball. After starting his career in Verona, he played a year in China with Shanghai, and then spent a spring in Qatar with Al Arabi for the Qatar and Emir Cups. He next returned to Italy to play for Lube, and then headed to Brazil to play with Sada Cruzeiro. Though he signed with Dynamo Moscow for the 2018-2019 season, a shoulder injury made him miss the entire year. This year is his first season in Poland.
Brenden started the match on fire for Radom, though his team dropped the first set 27-25. The younger Sander put away six kills on 10 attempts. He hit .600 without committing an error in attack or getting blocked. That momentum was slowed down as the match progressed. He ended up converting on three more attacks in the remaining two sets to finish with nine points on nine kills with a .400 attack average.
Taylor started a bit slow, hitting .333 in the first set. He went into the second set with three points on three kills. He was able to pick up the production in the next two sets, adding eight kills and a block. Skra took the next two sets by scores of 22-25 and 12-25 to complete the sweep. Taylor finished the match with 11 kills and one block while hitting .410. The win put Skra into playoff contention in eighth place.
JT Hatch and Kyle Ensing both played last season in Germany with the Berlin Recycling Volleys, the best club in the Bundesliga. This year they joined up with Josh Ayzenburg to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. The trio is enjoying great levels of success at this point in the season. The league is on a hiatus at the moment, but the club boasts an 8-1 record and is in second place.
Hatch is rated as the third-best outside hitter in the league. His 15 aces and .52 aces per set are both third on the list of top servers in Israel. Ensing is also rated as the third-best opposite in Israel. He has the second-most points and kills in the league with 151 and 133 respectively. Ensing’s 11 aces are good enough for eighth on the list of the country’s top servers. Ayzenberg is currently ranked as the seventh-best libero in Israel.
When asked about he and his American teammates enjoying their time in Israel, Hatch said, “We definitely are. The weather is amazing. The schedule is nice. Everything is open, and we are winning. I can’t complain.”
Brandon Rattray has had a breakout season in Spain with Arenal Emeve. After scoring 21 points in a 3-1 win over Concectabalear CV Manacor on January 9, Rattray was named to the league’s “Siete Ideal” (Ideal Seven). He currently tops the league in points per set (5.87) and kills per set (5.41). His 287 points and 265 kills are second-best in the league. What makes this the most impressive is that he missed the first three matches before getting his visa approved to arrive in Spain.