VNL 2024 schedule announced; USA women have Texas stop, men play in Canada
December 8, 2023
October 31, 2023
After a marathon summer for the USA in which the Americans won the FIVB World Cup and NORCECA Championship, took a silver medal at Volleyball Nations League and then qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics in Paris, players dispersed to their respective professional clubs.
As is the case with pro volleyball, a new year means a new team for some, but many are returning to their same clubs.
The biggest news in the transfer market is that Matt Anderson left Zenit Saint Petersburg for Ziraat Bankasi, the Turkish champions in 2023. He still had a year left on this contract in Russia, and the front office was not keen on seeing him depart early. They made the claim that his contract was still worth 950,000 Euros, and they needed to receive compensation before he could suit up in Turkey. The FIVB ruled that due to the Russian conflict, players would be able to put their current contracts with Russian clubs on hold to pursue opportunities in other leagues.
Erik Shoji and David Smith stayed at ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle in Poland, where they will try to win a fourth consecutive CEV Champions League title.
TJ DeFalco is back with Asseco Resovia Rzeszów.
Aaron Rusell is going back to the JT Thunders in Hiroshima, Japan.
The three setters who saw time with the national team this summer are all remaining with the same clubs, Micah Christenson with Zenit Kazan in Russia, Micah Ma’a in Turkey with Halkbank Ankara, and Josh Tuaniga in Poland with Indykpol AZS Olsztyn. Kyle Ensing and Pat Gasman stayed with their respective French clubs, Saint Nazaire and Chaumont. Tim McIntosh returned to Hypo Tirol Innsbruck, an Austrian club that will be in the Champions League this year.
Thomas Jaeschke left Ma’a and Halkbank to play in Japan with the Panasonic Panthers. Taylor Averill is said to be playing in China this season with Shanghai. Jake Hanes remains in Poland, but has made the move to Cuprum Lubin. Kyle Russell and Jeff Jendryk are both playing in Italy for the first times in both of their careers, both with Gioelle Prisma Taranto. Gabi Garcia remains in Italy, but moved from Lube Civitanova to Pallavollo Padova. Kyle Dagostino will still play in France, but he went from Nice to Narbonne.
Since the CEV has opened to all its member nations, the format for the preliminary rounds has varied. This first and second preliminary rounds this year consist of pool play. The first round took place this past week, with four pools of three or four teams each. One team from the pool hosted all of the matches and the single round-robin pools took place over three days. The top two finishers from each pool earned a place in the next round, where two pools of four teams will take part in another round-robin event, and the winners of each pool will claim a place in the group stage of the tournament.
Two teams with American played in Pool III. Tim McInthosh’s Hypo Tirol opened up lost to SC Prometey Dnipro of Ukraine, while Chase Direito’s VaLePa squad defeated Apeldoorn.
VaLepa had a chance to clinch a place in the next round but lost 19-25, 21-25, 29-27, 25-20, 15-13. Hypo Tirol stayed alive by defeating Apeldoorn 23-25, 38-36, 25-23, 25-19. McIntosh passed 64 percent of his 42 receptions positively and 40 percent perfectly.
McIntosh passed 54 percent positive receptions and 38 percent perfect in a sweep for Hypo Tirol over VaLePa. Direito saw his only action of the weekend in the first set as a serving substitute.
Hypo Tirol Innsbruck and SC Prometey Dnipro advanced to the next round, while VaLePa will play in the CEV Cup, where it will face Tommy Carmody, Spencer Olivier, and CEZ Karlovarsko of the Czech Republic.
Kyle Dagostino’s Narbonne club is taking part in the qualification round of CEV Cup. Dagostino passed 64 percent positively and 45 percent perfectly in a loss to Nantes Reze, a fellow French team. They play again Wednesday and Narbonne must win in three or four sets and then win a Golden Set to advance.
While ZAKSA has won the last three Champions League trophies, it has only claimed the Polish PlusLiga title once during that time. Smith, Shoji and ZAKSA opened up its domestic campaign with a win over PGE GiEK Skra Bełchatów as Smith scored 12 points on nine kills in as many attacks, two blocks and an ace. Shoji led with 76 percent positive and 47 percent perfect passes to go with a match-high 10 digs.
Jake Hanes led with 17 points in Curpum Lubin’s 37-35, 25-20, 25-17 sweep over Barkom Kazany Lviv, finishing with 13 kills, two blocks and two aces while hitting over .340.
Josh Tuaniga lost Karol Butryn and Taylor Averill, two of his top targets, to the transfer market, but still set Olsztyn to a .360 hitting percentage in a 23-25, 27-25, 26-24, 27-25 victory over Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie. The addition of Alan Souza from Brazil and Nicolas Szerszen helped with production at the pins. The duo combined for 31 of the teams 75 earned points. The story of this match was the emergence of Cezary Sapiński. The middle blocker who played with Tuaniga at Ślepsk Malow Suwałki was a perfect 16 of 16 in attack. He also added a block and two aces.
DeFalco and Resovia’s lost to Projekt Warsawa as DeFalco led Resovia with 18 kills and a block while hitting .433. Former UC Irvine star Kevin Tillie, who plays for France, hit .591 for Warsaw with no errors in a 13-kill performance and had two blocks and an ace.
Hanes led Cuprum Lubin with 14 kills and four acesin a four-set loss to Skrabut.
ZAKSA beat Stal Nysa in five as Smith hit .750 and Shoji passed 54 percent positive and 25 percent perfect passes.
Tuaniga and Olsztyn saw first-hand that Jastrzębski Węgiel is an even stronger team than it was when it won the PlusLiga last season. His team lost in four as Tuaniga set Olsztyn to a .290 hitting percentage.
ZAKSA then swept Olsztyn as Smith played sparingly.
Resovia swept Ślepsk Malow Suwałki as DeFalco had 15 kills, four aces and three blocks while hitting .500.
Resovia won a wild one — 19-25, 19-25, 34-32, 25-18, 15-10 — over Zawiercie and DeFalco led again, this time with 21 kills, a block, nine digs and an ace.
Hanes led Cuprum Lubin with 19 kills, three blocks and two aces in a loss to LUK Lubin.
Christenson’s first match back with Zenit Kazan was a victory over Dynamo Moscow in the third match of the regular season with the Supercup at stake. Christenson set Kazan to a .403 hitting percentage and scored on a block in a 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 win.
Jendryk and Kyle Russell made their Italian SuperLega debuts but lost to Rana Verona. Jendryk had 13 kills, three blocks and hit .764, while Russell was a sub who had three kills and an ace.
Garcia and Pallavolo Padova were swept by Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza and he had eight kills, two aces and a block, but only hit .125. His former teammate from BYU and current teammate at Padova, Italian Davide Gardini, led with 11 kills, two aces and hit .500.
Taranto then almost defeated the defending champions, Itas Trentino, but lost in five. Russell got the start for Taranto and produced 28 points on 25 kills and three aces and hit .438 attack. Jendryk had eight kills and a block.
Garcia had 11 kills and three aces, but Padova was swept by Lube Civitanova. Gardini nine kills and former Long Beach State star Aleksandar Nikolov had 12 kills and an ace for Lube.
Aaron Russell opened up his season with JT Thunders by scoring 21 points on 17 kills, two blocks and two aces in a four-set victory over the Suntory Sunbirds. But the next day, his team lost to the Sunbirds and he had 13 kills, two blocks and an ace.
Russell’s Hiroshima won twice against Tine Urnaut and the JTEKT Stings. He had 20 kills, two blocks and an ace in the first match and 14 kills and three blocks the next day.
Jaeschke’s Panasonic Panthers started the season with a two road wins over the Tokyo Great Bears. He led with 14 kills and six blocks in the first-match sweep and then had 15 kills and a block in another sweep.
The Panasonic Panthers then beat the Toray Arrows twice and Jaeschke led with 20 kills, two aces and a block in the first match and had 20 kills, an ace and a block in the second.
The Turkish Efeler League opened up its season with a rematch of last year’s finals and Halkbank Ankara avenged last year’s defeat with a 25-19, 22-25, 25-22, 22-25, 16-14 victory over Ziraat Bankasi. Ma’a set Halkbank to a .381 hitting percentage and scored on two kills and an ace. Nimir Abdel Aziz and Earvin N’Gapeth led Halkbank with 36 and 20 points, respectively. Anderson made his debut in the fourth set and had five kills, a block, and hit .400.
Halkbank then hit .506 and swept Spor Toto in an Ankara derby as Ma’a had two aces and a kill. N’Gapeth and Nimir had 18 points each.
Anderson started for Ziraat Bankasi sweep of Arkas Sporand led with 16 kills, three aces and a block while hitting .727 on 22 attempts.
This past week, Ziraat won twice as Anderson had 14 kills, three blocks, and an ace in a sweep of Rams Global Cizre Bld, and then he hit .450 on his way to eight kills and two blocks in a sweep over Kuşgöz Izmir Vinç Akkuş Bld.
Halkbank hit .451 in a four-set win over Türşad and Ma’a had two blocks and an ace.
The French Ligue A opened up the season after Chaumont fell to Tours in the Super Cup. Saint Nazaire was without Quinn Isaacson, whose broken hand put a damper on what could have been a highly competitive match, and Chaumont took advantage. Joe Worsley set Chaumont to a .532 hitting percentage with only two errors in a 25-20, 25-20, 25-14 sweep. Michael Marshman finished with three kills and four blocks and Patrick Gasman hit .714 on his way to five kills, two blocks and an ace. Jordan Ewert had seven kills for Saint Nazaire, but also committed seven attack errors. Kyle Ensing hit .174 and finished with nine kills.
Daniel Wetter kicked off his second pro season with 11 points and a .714 attack average for Paris in a 25-23, 25-16, 30-28 win over Narbonne. Wetter, a middle blocker who played his rookie season in Finland, did not commit an attack error and had 10 kills to go along with a block. Colton Cowell had four kills, two aces and hit .250. Kyle Dagostino passed 68 percent for Narbonne.
Chaumont hit .391 and swept Narbonne as Marshman had five kills, two aces a block while hitting .444. Gasman and McDonald split time at the other middle position. Gasman started and contributed two kills, a block and an ace. McDonald came off the bench in the second set and finished with three kills and two blocks. Dagostino passed 86 percent positively and 71 percent perfectly for Narbonne.
Wetter continued his impressive start with six kills, four blocks while hitting .750 in a four-set win for Paris over Tours. Cowell was a sub and did not score.
Ewert bounced back and led Saint Nazaire with 27 points, including 17 break points, in a 23-25, 29-27, 25-18, 25-18 victory over Nice. He posted 16 kills, three blocks and eight aces, all match highs. Ensing had 14 kills and a block.
After the Bounce House Cup, in which Cody Kessel’s Berlin Recycling Volleys beat VfB Friedrichshafen in the finals, the Bundesliga kicked things off on October 27.
SVG Lüneburg swept Netzhoppers K.W. Bestensee as Matt Knigge had seven kills, two blocks and two aces while hitting .778. Blake Leeson played two sets at the other middle position and had a kill. Gage Worsley passed 62 percent positively and 31 percent perfectly. Matt Slivinsky was used as a substitute in the first and third sets and had two kills.
JT Hatch had two kills and a block for Helios Grizzlys Giesen in a four-set defeat to Berlin. Kessel played in the first and fourth sets but did not score.
Brandon Rattray led UPCN with 24 points in a 25-20, 23-25, 25-12, 26-24 win over Monteros Volley Club in the semifinals of the Argentinian Supercup on 23 kills and a block. He played the first set of the final but was subbed out after a rough start (five kills and six errors) as UPCN fell to Club Asociacion Mutual Policial 19-25, 25-15, 26-28, 17-25. The league schedule will kick off in two weeks.
The Finnish Mesatruusliiga started September 30. VaLePa, perennially at the top of the standings, is off to a 5-0 start. The club defeated Kyky-Betset in five and Chase Direito, a rookie middle blocker who played at Menlo in the NAIA, had three kills and a block. Colin Lovejoy, a rookie middle from Grand Canyon, finished twith two kills and three blocks for Kyky-Betset. Dereito currently has the third-best attack percentage in Finland.
Troy Gooch, a rookie libero from UCLA, has the best perfect reception percentage in the league. His Hurrikaani-Loimaa squad is 2-1 and swept Karelian Hurmos. Gooch passed 77 percent positively and 46 percent perfectly. Greg Petty, last season’s MVP with Akaa Volley, also plays for Hurrikaani-Loimaa.
Michael Michelau had nine kills and an ace for Savo Volley in a loss to Kokkolan Tiikerit.
Felix Egharevba hit .700 on his way to eight kills for Raison Loimu. The rookie from Ball State also chipped in an ace and four blocks as his team defeated Kokkolan Tiikerit.
Petty had 11 kills, a block, and a team-high three aces for Hurrikaani-Loimaa in a win over the Vantaa Ducks. Gooch passed 71 percent positively and 35 percent perfectly.
A.O. Kalamata 80, with Matt West and Ryan Coenen, opened its season with a five-set loss to A.S. Athlos Orestiadas. West had three blocks and an ace while setting his team to a .231 hitting percentage. Coenen had nine kills, but seven errors, and an ace.
Middle Tommy Carmody had four kills, two blocks and an ace for CEZ Karlovarsko in a sweep of Brno on October 21. Spencer Olivier was used as a substitute in the second or third sets, earning a kill on three attempts. Grant Marocchi started and played the whole match for Brno, getting a kill.
Olivier then started for Karlovarsko and had six kills, two blocks and an ace. Carmody contributed three kills in the middle but Karlovarsko fell to Příbram in four.
Jordan Kerkvliet finished with six kills, two blocks and an ace for Odolena Voda in a 25-20, 26-24, 31-33, 25-19 win against Ostrava.
McIntosh’s Hypo Tirol squad made quick work of SK Zadruga Aich/Dob as he passed 50 percent of his receptions positively and 21 percent perfectly. Hypo Tirol is 4-0 and has not dropped a set in the domestic league.
Chênois Genève claimed the Swiss Supercup with a 26-24, 27-25, 25-18 sweep of Volley Schönenwerd as Dennis Del Valle passed 60 percent positive and 53 percent perfect for the victors. James Norris played the first two sets in the middle for Chênois, scoring on four kills but he had four errors.
Del Valle passed 54 percent positive a sweep of TSV Jona. Norris put away six kills, hit .625 and had two blocks.
Daniel Matheney had five kills and four blocks and hit. 625 for Bigbank Tartu of Estonia in a sweep of Amber Volley.