Men’s notebook: Transfers include Averill, West, Russell; Tuaniga, DeFalco, Ma’a get contracts

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Pro mens notebook 6/12/2019-Jeff Ptak
Jeff Ptak scored 42 points on June 9 to put Team Pineapple in first place in its division/Todd J. Coughlin, Todd Jay Photography

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 blairlambert2@gmail.com

Not only have many players found new clubs, but a number of rookies have signed their first professional contracts for the fall.

The National Volleyball Association (NVA) 2019 season is winding down its regular season, with only one more regional event before the playoffs. Regional events were held the last two weekends in Columbus, Ohio, and Angola, Indiana.

Transfers: Taylor Averill is leaving Chaumont 52 for the Indykpol AZS Olsztyn in the Polish PlusLiga. Averill was Chaumont’s leading scorer in the CEV Champions League, where the club went through the qualification rounds, through the group stage, and qualified for the playoffs. He was also the top-scoring middle blocker in the entire tournament. Averill helped Chaumont 52 reach the finals of the French Ligue A playoffs.

Long Beach State setter Josh Tuaniga will start his professional career in the Polish PlusLiga with MKS Ślepsk Suwałki. His new club recently finished as champions of the Polish 1Liga, the second division of Polish professional volleyball, and have been promoted to the country’s top flight.

Long Beach State teammate TJ DeFalco, VolleyballMag.com’s national NCAA player of the year, will be starting his professional career in Italy at the same club that another American player began his career just two years ago. DeFalco has signed with Tonno Callipo Vibo Valentia. The club, which employed Ben Patch during his rookie season in 2017-2018, finished the regular season in 12th place out of 14 teams in the Italian SuperLega.

BYU product Leo Durkin has signed to play at SVG Luneburg in the German Bundesliga next season. Lunburg finished the regular season in fourth place and reached the semifinals of the playoffs.

Matt West’s move to AS Cannes has been announced by the club. He leaves Hurrikaani Loimaa after finishing the regular season in first place and reaching the semifinals of the playoffs. West, a setter at Pepperdine, heads to a Cannes team that finished at the bottom of the French Ligue A standings last year and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Kyle Russell is leaving the German Recycling Volleys and heading to France. He will be joining up with Matt West to play at AS Cannes. The former UC Irvine standout won German Bundesliga championships with Berlin over the last two seasons.

UCLA’s Micah Ma’a has signed on as setter for Stade Poiteven in the French Ligue A. Ma’a played both setter and outside hitter at UCLA and trains with the USA national team. He will arrive at a club that finished seventh in the regular season and lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs to Ajaccio.

Greg Petty will be back in first division volleyball in the German Bundesliga with Volleyball Bisons Bühl. After being injured, Petty played last season with Paris Volley in the French Ligue B. His club won the championship and earned promotion back to Ligue A. Bühl finished the regular season in eighth position and lost to VfB Friedrichshafen in the quarterfinals.

Pepperdine’s David Wieczorek will be starting his professional career in Germany with HELIOS Grizzlys Giesen. Giesen finished the German Bundesliga in 10th place out of 12 teams last season.

Joining Wieczorek at Giesen will be Pepperdine opposite Michael Wexter.

Matt August will be packing his bag for the Czech Republic in the fall. The middle blocker has signed on to play with Volejbal Brno next season. Brno finished the regular season in the Czech Extraliga in sixth place and was knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals by Kladno.

Collin Mahan will be playing his rookie season in the Netherlands with Abiant Lycurgus. The product of Loyola goes to one of the most storied clubs in Dutch volleyball. Lycurgus finished the regular season of the Eredivisie in first place and reached the final of the playoffs before losing to Orion.

Max Chamberlain, a middle blocker from Pepperdine, has signed his first professional contract with Tourcoing in the French Ligue A. The Tourcoing club finished in ninth place in 2019 and just missed the Ligue A playoffs.

Ryan Moss, opposite from USC, signed to play in the Czech Republic with AERO Odolena Voda. Odolena Voda finished the Czech Extraliga in eighth place. The club won its opening round of the playoffs against CZU Praha before being eliminated by Dukla Liberec in the quarterfinals.

Loyola libero Avery Alsworth will be traveling to Finland to suit up for Raison Loimu next season. Loimu finished the regular season of the Finnish Mestaruusliiga in fifth position and lost to Etta, eventual finalist, in the quarterfinals.

NVA East Coast Regional 3: The third and final regional in the East Coast division took place June 1-2 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. In addition to the teams from the East Coast division, the Phoenix Ascension were the team from the West Coast division taking part in its crossover event. There were a number of players back on the court after playing professional seasons in Europe, including Mike Marshman (Pleiss, French Ligue B), Griffin Shields (TSV Herrsching, German Bundesliga), Gary House (Heitec Volleys Elitmann, German Bundesliga 2), and Nicolas Szerszen (Asseco Resovia, Polish PlusLiga).

Legion Volleyball Club (LVC) 3, Ascension 1: Even without Szerszen in the lineup, LVC left with the win and a full three points against Ascension. Jordan Varee led all players with 19 points on 16 kills, one block, two aces, and a .323 hitting percentage for LVC. Joe Norton, on the coaching staff at George Mason University, came off the bench in the second set and finished the match with 10 kills and a match-high four aces. He also hit .350. Mike Marshman hit .563 on his way to 10 kills. Marshman also chipped in a block and an ace. Bryan Lewis and Joe Kualiakomoa both scored 14 for Ascension. Lewis’ points came entirely on kills. Kualiakomoa, who played as a setter at BYU and professionally at Milan, played outside hitter and scored on 11 kills and three aces.

LVC 3, Team Pineapple 0: Szerszen was the only LVC player to register double-digit points, but that was enough to pick up the sweep over Pineapple. He finished with a match-high 22 points on 18 kills, three aces and a block with a .313 attack average. Lance Rodgers scored eight points in the middle on five kills and three blocks. Rodgers did not commit an error in attack and hit .714. Jasmin Cull was the top scorer for Pineapple with 12 points from 12 kills. He was also the match’s leading passer with 88 percent of his receptions being classified as positive.

Icemen 3, Ascension 0: Tim Falknor set a varied Icemen offense in which four players finished in the double digits. Dan Starkey paced the Icemen with 10 kills and five aces but only hit .192. Andrey Diachkov was right behind with 13 kills and an ace but only posted a .200 hitting percentage. Dave Hancock hit .400 on his way to seven kills and four aces. Kyle Overby finished the match with a .438 attack average during an eight-kill performance. Overby also scored on an ace and a block. Lewis and Vince Zanucchi led Ascension with only seven points each.

Pineapple 3, Ascension 0: Jeff Ptak made it difficult for Ascension to get its first win of the weekend. His 10 kills, three aces and two blocks helped Pineapple pick up the sweep. Ptak, an opposite from IPFW, hit .450 from the right side. Tomas Goldsmith put away 10 kills from the left side to go with an ace in the win. Connor Doughetry was Ascension’s leading scorer with seven points from the middle. Dougherty put away six kills and one block while hitting .857.

Icemen 3, LVC 2: Shields exploded from the right side for the Icemen, who handed LVC its third loss of the season and its first lost since the opening regional event on April 7. Shields scored 28 points on 24 kills and four blocks with a .318 hitting percentage. Diachkov added 21 points from 17 kills, three blocks and an ace. Mark Jones and Hancock both added 11 points each for the Icemen. Szerszen paced LVC with 20 kills, one block, one ace and a .432 hitting percentage. Blake Leeson and Rodgers contributed 10 and 11 points from the middle respectively. Varee hit .350 and finished with 12 kills in the defeat.

Pineapple 3, Icemen 2: The Icemen were not able to keep the momentum from defeating LVC into the final match of the weekend. Ptak went off for 27 points on 24 kills and three blocks for Pineapple in the five-set win. Ptak hit an impressive .375 from the right side. Cull contributed 19 from 14 kills, three blocks and two aces. Shields led the Icemen with 17 kills, three blocks, two aces and hit .419. Overby hit a phenomenal .519 from the left side and finished with 20 points. He scored on 18 kills, a block and an ace.

NVA West Coast Regional 2: Indiana was the host of the West Coast division’s second regional event June 8-9 at the Ball Sports Academy. Team Pineapple was the East Coast division club taking part in this crossover event. Matt West and Ray Szeto, back from Finland and Germany respectively, established themselves again as the best setter-to-hitter combination in the division. Ptak continued to show that his years of experience overseas could propel Pineapple to a second-consecutive NVA championship.

Pro mens notebook 6/12/2019-Ray Szeto
Ray Szeto has led the Costa Mesa Stunners to the best record in the NVA after nine matches/Todd J. Coughlin, Todd Jay Photography

Stunners 3, Rising Tide 0: Szeto, back from starting at SVG Luneburg, led the Stunners with 12 points on nine kills, two blocks and two aces. Matt West scored five points on five kills and an ace while setting the Stunners to a .289 hitting percentage. Johannes Brink scored 10 points in the middle on eight kills and two aces in the victory. The Rising Tide were led by Pepperdine’s Wexter, who finished with 11 kills and an ace from the right side. He also hit .320. Mahan posted eight points for the Rising Tide on five kills, one block, two aces and a .000 hitting percentage.

Rising Tide 3, Ascension 2: Mahan and Wexter led the Rising Tide again. Wexter contributed 20 points from 16 kills, three blocks and one ace in the win. Mahan hit .592 on 18 kills, two blocks and an ace. Trevor Weiskircher only hit .083 but finished with 11 kills.  Joe Bortak scored 10 points in the middle for Rising Tide. Lewis led Ascension on 12 kills, two aces and a match-high five blocks. Dougherty, Mark Olsen, and Taylor Harrington all scored 10 points each in the defeat. Harrington matched Lewis with five blocks to go with his five kills. Olsen put away five kills, three blocks, and two kills, but he hit .000 for the match.

Pineapple 3, Stunners 0: Ptak muscled Pineapple to victory in the weekend’s most surprising result. Coming into the match at 5-4 on the season, Ptak’s 17 points helped Pineapple defeat the 6-1 Stunners from Costa Mesa. Ptak finished with 14 kills, two blocks and one ace with a .440 attack average. Goldsmith put away eight kills, three aces and a block in the win. Szeto led the Stunners with 12 kills and three aces, but he only hit .250 in the defeat. West could not get the Stunners offense off the ground, setting the club to only a .147 attack average.

Rising Tide 3, Pineapple 2: Wexter and Mahan carried the offensive load for the Rising Tide to its second victory of the weekend. Wexter hit .500 from the right side and posted 21 kills to go with three aces. Mahan hit .451 on his way to 16 kills and an ace. Conor Martin set the Rising Tide to a .364 hitting percentage in the win. Bortak scored 14 in the middle on 10 kills, three blocks and an ace. Ptak led the match with 25 points on 22 kills, one block and three aces. Kyle Radde was the only other Pineapple player to reach double-digit scoring. The outside hitter scored 13 on 12 kills and a block with a .476 hitting percentage.

Stunners 3, Ascension 2: West got the match off in favor of John Eddins in five-set win for the Stunners. Szeto led all scorers with 35 points on 29 kills, four aces, and two blocks. Szeto hit .511 from the left side in the win. Brink finished with 16 kills and two blocks at opposite for the Stunners. Eddins set the club to a .325 attack average in the win. Dougherty scored 19 for Ascension on 17 kills and two blocks. Lewis hit .132 but finished with 15 kills to go with a block and an ace. Olsen led the match with six blocks. The middle blocker from Ascension also contributed eight kills.

Pineapple 3, Ascension 0: Ptak again led Pineapple with 17 points on 14 kills and three blocks in a win that took the club to the top of the standings in the East Coast division. Ptak also hit .500 in the victory. Goldsmith scored 12 points from nine kills, two blocks, and an ace. House finished with six kills, three blocks and a .444 hitting percentage for Pineapple. Lewis paced Ascension with nine kills but hit .200 for the match. Vince Zanzucchi was right behind Lewis with eight points on six kills, a block, and an ace. Zanzucchi’s six kills were accompanied by six errors in attack for a .000 hitting percentage.

Standings: Team Pineapple concluded its regular season this past weekend, and clinched a spot in the playoffs from the East Coast Conference. It sits on a 7-5 record with 20 points. Legion Volleyball Club have one more event and three more matches left in the regular season, but Szerszen’s and Christy Blough’s club have already earned a playoff berth. LVC sits at 6-3 with 20 points. The Iceman are 6-6 with 19 points, but with no matches remaining, are outside of playoff contention.

In the West Coast division, the Stunners sit on top of the standings with the best winning percentage in all of the NVA. The club from Costa Mesa is 7-2 with 19 points. It has clinched a spot in the playoffs along with the Rising Tide. The team based out of Santa Barbara is 4-5 with 10 points. The Phoenix Ascension is 0-9 with two points and has been eliminated from the playoffs with three matches left.

Coming Up: The final regional event will take place June 29-30 at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. LVC will be taking part in this crossover event, and it needs just one win to earn first place in the East Coast division. The Stunners are in a similar situation. Just one win will see them clinch first place in the West Coast division.

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