Men’s notebook: National Volleyball Association primer as season begins

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NVA Long Beach 2019-Nicolas Szerszen
Nicolas Szerszen played exceptionally well in his first NVA event/Todd J. Coughlin photo

This is Blair Lambert’s VolleyballMag.com weekly men’s professional volleyball report, featuring Americans around the world. In this case, the report is about the NVA here in America. Got a note about a player or a comment for Blair? Email him at blairlambert2@gmail.com

The National Volleyball Association (NVA) is back for its 2019 season with six clubs participating.

The East Coast Division consists of the New York Legion Volleyball Club, Angola Team Pineapple, and the Chicago Icemen.

The West Coast Division is comprised of the Phoenix Ascension, the Santa Barbara Rising Tide, and the Costa Mesa Stunners. There will be three regional events in each of the divisions.

The regional events consist of four teams with three teams from that division and one team crossing over. The events are in round-robin format, and each team plays three matches each weekend. Clubs will play in all three regional events and one crossover event in the other division. All teams will play 12 matches in the regular season, and the top two in each division will compete in the championship tournament.

The next event is the third regional for the East Coast Conference this weekend at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. It will coincide with the JVA SummerFest, which will be at the same venue. In addition to the teams from the East Coast Conference, the Phoenix Ascension will be traveling out to Ohio to compete in the crossover event.

The league kicked off at a showcase in Las Vegas this past December. Academy United from California won that event, and Paul Lotman was named the tournament’s MVP. The league’s first season took part with six regional events and culminated in a four-team championship on Jan 5-6, 2019. Team Pineapple, headed up by Lloy Ball, won the championship in the first complete season.

East Coast Regional 2: The second regional in the East Coast division took place this past weekend at the Empowered Volleyball Academy in Fort Wayne Indiana. In addition to the teams from the East Coast division, the Santa Barbara Rising Tide made the trip east to take part in the event. There were a number of players fresh off of their professional seasons in Europe playing in the event including Mike Marshman (Pleiss, French Ligue B), Griffin Shields (TSV Herrsching, German Bundesliga), and Nicolas Szerszen (Asseco Resovia, Polish PlusLiga), the former NCAA player of the year at Ohio State University.

Szerszen, in his return to American volleyball, arrived in Indiana and made an immense impact. In his first match with Legion Volleyball Club, he hit .619 and produced a match-high 14 kills in a sweep over his former OSU teammate, Aaron Samarin, and Rising Tide. Szerszen followed up that performance with a match-high 16 points on 12 kills, two blocks, and two aces in a sweep over the Icemen. The Icemen led the division going into the weekend, but Szerszen’s .611 hitting performance bested Kyle Overby, the league’s leading scorer, and Griffin Shields. Szerszen moved LVC into first place in the East Coast division with a 3-1 victory over Pineapple. He led the match again with 23 points on 17 kills, two blocks, and a match-high four aces while hitting .500. The French outside hitter was the weekend’s leading scorer teamed up with his former setter at Ohio State, Christy Blough, to hit .569 from left side.

Legion Volleyball Club 3, Rising Tide 0 — Blake Leeson, who just finished his senior season at Ohio State, put up 11 points in the middle on eight kills and three blocks. Christy Blough’s quick tempo at setter made it difficult for the Rising Tide block to adjust. He set Legion to a .438 hitting percentage. Trevor Weiskircher, formerly of Lewis University and Pamvochaikos in Greece in 2018, led the Rising Tide with seven kills and a .294 attack average. Aaron Samarin, libero of Rising Tide who just finished his senior season at Ohio State, led with 57 percent of his receptions being rated as excellent.

NVA Long Beach 2019-Kyle Overby
Kyle Overby was the leading scorer of the NVA coming into weekend/Todd J.Coughlin photo

Legion Volleyball Club 3, Icemen 0 — Szerszen continued his hot hand for Legion with 12 more kills to go with a pair of blocks and aces. Michael Marshman, who played in France last season, got into the action with 12 points in the middle. He scored on eight kills, three blocks, and an ace with a .636 hitting percentage. Joe Norton contributed eight points for Legion on five kills, two blocks, and one ace. Kyle Overby and Griffin Shields led the Icemen with 13 and 12 points respectively. Overby put away 13 kills with a .455 hitting percentage, and Shields hit .280 on his way to 11 kills and a block.

Team Pineapple 3, Rising Tide 1 — The 2018 NVA Champions took to the court for the first time of the weekend without its starting setter, Ball. Jorge Ralat, another setter from IPFW, handled the setting duties well. He found the hot hand in Jeff Ptak, a veteran opposite who has played professionally all over Europe and Puerto Rico. Ptak led all players with 15 points on 13 kills and two blocks with a .290 hitting percentage. Gary House scored nine points in the middle for Pineapple from six kills, one block, and two aces. Shaun Dryden came off the bench in the third set and finished with match for Pineapple, scoring an impressive eight points in just over one set of action. Dryden put away three kills, one block, and led the match with four aces. Luke Spicer was the Rising Tide’s top scorer with 15 points on 13 kills and two blocks. Joe Bortak scored 13 points in the middle, including 12 kills on 17 attempts without an error. Weiskircher was again productive for the Rising Tide from the left side with 10 points.

Icemen 3, Rising Tide 2 — The Icemen prevailed in the only five-set match of the weekend. Mark Jones of George Mason led the Icemen with 20 points on 16 kills, two aces, and two blocks while hitting .270. Dan Starkey and Scott Siwkicki scored 17 and 16 respectively. They both finished with 16 kills, but struggled in attack efficiency with Siwicki hitting only .238. Starkey was a bit more effective, posting a .306 hitting percentage. Weiskircher also posted 20 points and hit .297 for the Rising Tide. Spicer chipped in 17, including a team-high four blocks in the defeat.

Legion Volleyball Club 3, Team Pineapple 1 — Coming into Sunday’s schedule, this match was pegged to detemine the leader in the East Coast Division at the end of the weeknd. Two of the all-time great pin hitters in the MIVA, Szerszen and Ptak, faced off in a match-up that did not disappoint. Szerszen continued his exceptional weekend with 17 kills, two blocks, and four aces. Ptak countered with 17 points of his own on 17 kills and a .342 hitting percentage. Jordan Varee got into the mix for Legion with 13 points at opposite. Varee hit an astounding .769 from the right side with only a single attack error. Ivan Mattos was Pineapple’s second-leading scorer, but his five kills were accompanied by six errors. Ball was able to set Pineapple to a .240 attack average, while Legion posted a .479 hitting percentage with Blough running the offense.

Icemen 3, Team Pineapple 1 — In a match that was highlighted in last week’s international notebook, Shields showed why he was a starting opposite in the German Bundesliga as the Icemen got its second win over Pineapple this season. Shields led all scorers with 19 points on 17 kills and two blocks. Starkey added 10 kills, two blocks and an ace. Gary House led Pineapple with 16 kills and two blocks, but he only hit .160 for the match. Shaun Dryden got the start at outside hitter and scored 16 points. His 13 kills came with only a .133 attack average. Fiduccia Pasquale was setting in place of Lloy Ball.

West Coast Regional 1: The first regional event in the West Coast Conference took place May 25 and 26 in Long Beach. It coincided with the Junior Volleyball Association’s Long Beach Cup. In addition to the three teams from the West Coast Conference, the Chicago Icemen traveled out west to take part in the event. With the USA Volleyball Adult Nationals taking place during the same weekend in Columbus, Ohio, the Icemen were without Overby, Shields, Mark Jones, and Scott Siwicki. The Costa Mesa Stunners took the court with West, from Hurrikaani Loimaa in Finland, and Ray Szeto, who just finished the season as the starting outside hitter for SVG Luneburg in the German Bundesliga.

Stunners 3, Icemen 1 — Matt West set the Stunners to a comfortable win while leading the match with three service aces. He also put away two kills and a block. Ray Szeto led the team in scoring with 17 kills, a block, and an ace while hitting .275. Luis Palos from Cal Baptist scored 14 points on 12 kills and two blocks. Dillon Emery contributed nine kills, two blocks, and two aces in a winning effort. Mike Bunting led the match with 20 points for the Icemen on 18 kills, a block, and an ace. Grant Kocher and Dan Starkey finished with 12 and 11 points respectively.

Stunners 3, Rising Tide 1 — Matt West and Ray Szeto rested in the second match of the day for the Stunners, but Luis Palos still started and led his squad with 10 kills and an ace. Cesar Medina matched Palos with 11 points from eight kills, two blocks and an ace. Robert Feathers put away seven kills and three aces while hitting .545. Aniefre Thomas also finished with 10 points in the middle for the Stunners. The Rising Tide was not able to get its first win of the season, but Loyola’s Collin Mahan led the match with 18 points. The outside hitter who just finished his senior season at Loyola finished with 13 kills and a match-high five blocks. Pepperdine’s Michael Wexter contributed 14 points from the right side with 10 kills, three blocks, and an ace.

Icemen 3, Ascension 1 — Bunting, Starkey, and Grant Kocher were the leading scorers for Icemen again, but led to a win in the last match on Saturday. Bunting scored 18 from 15 kills, two blocks and an ace. Starkey put away 14 kills, two blocks and registered an ace from the service line. Kocher put up four blocks and earned eight kills. Piotr Dabrowski also registered four kills and put down seven kills in the middle for the Icemen. Bryan Lewis was the only Ascension player to finish with double-digit scoring. He took 66 swings and ended with 27 kills with a .167 attack average.

Rising Tide 3, Icemen 2 — Domonic Lile found success with feeding Collin Mahan to earn Rising Tide’s first victory of the season. Mahan led the match with 19 kills, two aces and four blocks. He hit .300 from the left side in the victory. Michael Wexter posted 14 kills and two blocks, while Gus Tuaniga finished the match with 11 kills, two blocks and two aces. Dan Starkey paced the Icemen with 19 points from 15 kills and a match-high four aces. Bunting was right behind with 17 kills, but he only hit .034 with 15 errors on 58 attempts.

Stunners 3, Ascension 1 — West was back on the floor and running the offense again for the Stunners and helped the club finish the weekend with a 3-0 record and a perfect nine points. West set his squad to a .295 hitting percentage. Szeto scored five points per set with 13 kills and two aces. Dillon Emory hit .375 with eight kills, two blocks, and a match-high three aces. Logan Adock was Ascension’s top scorer with nine points, but hit -.045 on his way to six kills. Brian Lewis hit .048 with six kills and two aces.

Rising Tide 3, Ascension 0 — Rising Tide finished the weekend with its second win, and Ascension dropped to 0-3 for the event. Michael Wexter finished with 11 kills and hit .450 for Rising Tide. Mahan scored nine points on nine kills. Gus Tuaniga earned three points from the service line to go with seven kills. He hit .368 without committing an attack error. Logan Adock led Ascension for the second-consecutive match with 14 points. He led the match with three aces and also contributed 11 kills. Connor Dougherty finished the match with eight points in the middle. He hit .625 with six kills and two blocks.

Standings: Halfway through the regional schedule the Costa Mesa Stunners and New York Legion Volleyball Club have established themselves at the top of the standings of conferences.

“We play quality and consistent volleyball for the most part,” West said. “I am pretty fortunate to have both middles and outsides that are committed to their routes every play and work really hard. We have a long way to go if we want to win the whole thing, but we’re on the right path. The only thing we are really worried about is having quality practices that will hopefully translate to our match play.”

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Blair,

    I love that you covered the NVA in volleyball Mag. It was a excellent shout out. However some of your facts are wrong. I actually hit for a higher percentage than griffin at 43% to his 41% I scored 18 points to his 19. I also I was returning from over seas playing for Heitec Volleys Eltmann in the second league in Germany where we won the division. The team will move up to the 1st bundesliga next season. If you could accurately reflect this in your article it would be amazing. A lot of people see this magazine and it will help on me securing a new contract next year.

    Best regards,
    Gary House

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