There’s a lot happening with Americans playing pro volleyball internationally. The Champions League and CEV Cup are underway, and competitions have been affected because of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions put on teams from Russia:
While there were only a few matches last week in the world’s top club competition, there was big news tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that altered the landscape and potential results. The Confederation of European Volleyball disqualified all Russian and Belarusian clubs from European competitions. This meant that two of the quarterfinalists of the tournament, Zenit St. Petersburg and Dynamo Moscow, had to forfeit their matchups. Matt Anderson and Sir Safety Perugia will advance to the semifinals, since St. Petersburg has been removed. It also resulted in Erik Shoji and Davd Smith advancing with ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle due to Moscow’s disqualification.
Berlin Recycling Volleys, featuring Ben Patch, Jeff Jendryk, Cody Kessel and Matt West, dropped a straight-sets decision to Itas Trentino of Italy. Jendryk led all of Berlin’s scorers with 11 points. His points came from seven kills (.875), three blocks and an ace. Patch struggled, hitting only .087 on his way to seven kills to go along with an ace. West was used as a serving sub in the first and third sets, attempting three serves. Kessel was used in the back row in each of the three sets.
Gabi Garcia and Lube Civitanova got swept by Jastrzębski Węgiel, the defending champions of the Polish PlusLiga on March 8 in the other quarterfinal match-up. Garcia started on the bench behind Ivan Zaytsev the previous weekend against Leo Shoes Modena, but came on to fill in for outside hitter, Marlon Yant, after an injury. The Puerto Rican opposite from BYU who has made it known that he wants to represent the United States in international competition, started the match but was replaced in the second set. He finished with six kills, one block, and a minus .059 hitting percentage.
Micah Christenson and Zenit Kazan were poised to reach the final of the tournament after soundly defeating Vero Volley Monza in the first leg of the semifinals on February 24. Kazan, the Russian Cup champions with only one defeat in all competitions this year, was disqualified, and Monza will face Tours VB in the finals.
The finale of the Coppa Italia took place this past weekend, with Anderson and Perugia taking the crown. It was the first title for Anderson since he won the Russian Cup with Zenit Kazan in 2019. He scored 12 points from nine kills, two blocks, and an ace in the 3-1 victory over Trentino on March 6. Wilfredo Leon and Kamil Rychlicki led the way for Perugia with 23 and 21 points, respectively.
Anderson scored 18 points on 13 kills, four blocks, and an ace in Perugia’s 3-1 win over Gas Sales Piacenza in the semifinals on March 5. Aaron Russell got the start at outside hitter for Piacenza but was replaced in the second set with two kills, one block, and a minus .111 hitting percentage. With Russell out, Max Holt was able to enter and keep within the foreign quota limit. Holt finished with three kills and an ace.
In the other semifinal match, Thomas Jaeschke produced seven kills for Allianz Milano in a 3-0 defeat to Trentino. Jaeschke hit .227 in the loss. Danielle Lavia led the match with 19 points for Trentino.
Holt scored eight points on seven kills (.636) and a block in Piacenza’s 3-0 victory over Verona. The addition of Antoine Brizzard, Holt, and Adis Lagumdzjia had Piacenza thinking it could be a title contender at the beginning of the season, but now the team hopes to finish the regular season in sixth place with a 12-12 record.
Milano followed up its semifinal Coppa Italia defeat to Trentino on March 5 with a tiebreak defeat to the same team on March 13. Jaeschke finished the match with 12 kills and an ace, but he only hit .222.
Perugia clinched first place in the regular season with two matches left, and rested a number of starters in its match against Vero Volley Monza on March 13. Anderson, Leon, and Simone Gianelli were not in the court in Perugia’s 3-1 win.
Shoji and Smith helped ZAKSA defend its Polish Cup title on February 27. This past week they swept Micah Ma’a and GKS Katowice. Smith scored seven points on four kills (.800), two blocks, and an ace. Shoji passed 63% of his receptions positively and a match-high 38% perfectly. Ma’a registered a block and set Katowice to a .232 hitting percentage.
Dustin Watten had five errors in reception, but posted a 43% positive and 35% perfect reception rate in LUK Liblin’s 3-1 victory over Cerrad Enea Czarni Radom on March 13.
TJ DeFalco seemed to suffer an injury in Indykpol AZS Olsztyn’s 3-1 defeat to Jastrzębski Węgiel on March 12. DeFalco scored on three kills (.286) and an ace. Taylor Averill started the first two sets and contributed a kill on two swings (.500).
Josh Tuaniga set Ślepsk Malow Suwałki to a .250 attack average in a 3-0 defeat to PGE Skra Bełchatów. He also added a kill.
While Russian clubs have been exiled from European and worldwide competitions, the Russian Super League seems undeterred. Christenson and Zenit Kazan are possibly playing the best volleyball of any club in the world. They went into the weekend having only lost one match in all competitions, and defeated second-place Lokomotiv Novosibirsk in four sets. Christenson set Kazan to a .378 hitting percentage while contributing a kill and two blocks.
SVG Lüneburg and VFB Friedrichshafen did not have the starts to their seasons that they were hoping for. Though they lost Linus Weber to Padova in Italy and Nehemiah Mote to Berlin, Friedrichshafen brought Mark Lebedew to the bench, Blair Bann to play libero, Lucas Van Berkel in the middle, and Simon Hirsch at opposite. Despite its attempt to reinforce the lineup that finished the regular season in first last year, the club struggled and finished the first part of the regular season in fourth position.
Joe Worsely left Friedrichshafen after last season to become the starting setter at SVG Lüneburg. He joined up with Jordan Ewert and Dalton Solbrig. The club played its first six matches on the road, going 2-4. Worsley was able to rely on the offensive production of Ewert to climb back up into fifth place.
Though these two clubs have had their struggles in the German Bundesliga, they made great runs through the German Cup and faced each other in the final on March 6. Avery Aylsworth, who shouldered much of the serve receive duties at the libero position after Bann’s season ended due to a hip surgery, passed 47% of his receptions positively. While Ewert led all players with 19 points on 18 kills (.333) and a block, Friedrichshafen claimed the cup in four sets. Solbrig added five points in the middle from two kills and three blocks. Worsley set Lüneburg to a .243 attack average in the defeat.
The Bundesliga playoffs kicked off this past weekend. Friedrichsahfen, who climbed to the third seed after the intermediate stage, dropped its first match of the quarterfinals to WWK Volleys Herrsching in five sets on March 12. Aylsworth did not feature in the match.
Ewert scored 13 points for Lüneburg, but the team still dropped its first match of the quarterfinals against United Volleys Frankfurt. His 10 kills came with a .154 hitting percentage, and he also contributed three blocks. Solbrig chipped in five kills, an ace, and one block. Worsley set his squad to a .202 attack efficiency and added two kills.
While Berlin lost in the semifinals of the German Cup, the club has almost been flawless in the Bundesliga. Patch scored 10 points on 10 kills with a blistering .692 hitting percentage in a sweep of Helios Grizzlys Giesen. Jendryk scored eight points on five kills and three blocks, hitting .714. Both West and Kessel were used as substitutes, but did not score any points.
With the regular season winding down, Spor Toto Ankara defeated Arkas Spor in four sets on March 11. Kawika Shoji scored four points on two blocks, a kill and an ace against his former club. The two-time Olympian also set Spor Toto to a .324 hitting percentage in the upset.
Michael Michelau was released by Etta Oulu, and was quickly signed by Savo Volley. He was the fourth-best scorer in the Finnish Mestaruusliiga with 5.04 points per set, and his team finished the regular season in first place. He got the night off on March 13 in a 3-0 sweep of Team Lakkapää.
Kyle Dagostino passed 50% positive and 27% perfect for Raison Loimu in a 3-1 defeat to Hurrikaani Loimaa on March 11. Dagositno played outside hitter in a 3-0 defeat to Savo on March 9. He scored seven points on five kills (-.042) and two aces.
Matt Knigge scored nine points in the middle for CV Guagas, the defending champions of Spain. Knigge hit .000 with only three kills, but led with six blocks in the 3-1 win over Léleman VB Valencia.
Greg Petty helped CV Teurel defeat Arenal Emevé in five sets back on March 5. Petty finished with 19 points on 16 kills (.387) and three blocks.
The playoffs are underway in Switzerland with the quarterfinal series to be finished this week. Jalen Penrose was the fourth-best scorer heading into the playoffs and has led his Volley Schönenwerd team to the finals of the Swiss Cup. Penrose’s team has its hands full in the semifinals of the playoffs with Corey Chavers and Chênois Genève Volleyball. The two played on March 12 with Penrose scoring 29 points in a 3-2 win as he hit .382. Chavers scored on 15 kills and an ace with a .361 hitting percentage. Chênois Genève holds a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series.
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