This is our weekly report on USA men playing International professional volleyball:
While the top Italian team (Sir Safety Perugia) and the top Polish club (ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle) had already secured their places in the semifinals, two matches on March 16 determined who their opponents would be.
Berlin Recycling Volleys needed to beat Itas trentino in three or four sets to force a golden set and have a chance at advancing. Things started on the right foot with 25-21 and 25-22 victories in the first two sets. Trentino used 22 points from Alessandro Micheiletto to take the third and fourth sets 25-9 and 25-21. The victory in the fourth set clinched the matchup for the Italian club. Berlin went on to take the fifth set, but it was not enough to stay alive. Jeff Jendryk scored 10 points in the middle with seven kills (hitting .357), two aces and a block. Ben Patch finished with 12 kills (.292). Matt West was used as a serving substitute, and Cody Kessel came off the bench to pass.
Lube Civitanova was surprisingly swept a week earlier by Jastrzębski Węgiel of Poland. Similar to Berlin, Lube needed to win in three or four sets to force a golden set to decide the matchup. Gabi Garcia did not start for Lube, but came off the bench as a serving substitute and started the final set. The Italian club took the first two sets and had a match point in the third, but could not close it out. Jan Hadrava, the Czech opposite, scored 23 points in the first four sets. Tomasz Fornal added 22 points for Węgiel, including five aces. Garcia ended up scoring two points on two kills (.500) in the defeat. Osmany Juantorena made his return after being out much of the season due to injuries and scored six points.
Trentino will face Matt Anderson and Perugia in the semifinals next week, while Jastrzębski Węgiel will play ZAKSA. The matchups will ensure the finals will be between a Polish and Italian club.
The last match day of the season took place March 20 with all six matches taking place simultaneously. Perugia had already clinched its spot at the top of the standings. Matt Anderson is now back in the United States for the birth of his second child, so obviously did not play in Perugia’s sweep of second-placed Lube Civitanova. Garcia scored a point off the bench for Lube.
Gas Sales Piacenza secured sixth position with a 3-0 victory over Vibo Valentia. Max Holt scored seven points in the middle with four kills (.571), two blocks and an ace. Aaron Russell did not play for Piacenza. The defeat means that Vibo Valentia will be relegated down to A2 next year. This season has been a stark contrast for the club that finished fifth with TJ DeFalco last year.
Jaeschke turned in an impressive performance for Allianz Milano in a 3-1 victory over Gioiella Prisma Taranto. Jaeschke led with four aces to go with 11 kills (.286) and two blocks. Jean Patry, coming off of COVID, made a rare appearance in the middle with Yuri Romano playing opposite and scored 20 points.
Mads Jensen, formerly of UCLA, led Verona Volley with 18 kills, two blocks, and three aces. The left-handed opposite who played setter for John Speraw at Westwood hit .607 in the 301 win over Vero Volley Monza. While the win did not get Verona into the playoffs, it was able to avoid relegation. Rok Mozic, the young Serbian outside hitter who suffered an ankle injury last week, came back to score 22 points for Verona.
Micah Ma’a served five aces for GKS Katowice in a sweep of Projekt Warsawa on March 18. Ma’a set Katowice to a .337 hitting percentage. His team occupies the final playoff position with two matches remaining.
Josh Tuaniga set Ślepsk Malow Suwałki to a .387 hitting percentage in a 3-1 victory over Nicolas Szerszeń and Asseco Resovia Rzeszów. He also contributed an ace. Szerszeń scored 16 points for Resovia in the defeat. Resovia, seen as potential title contenders at the beginning of the season, sit in sixth place, and Suwałki are down to 12th.
Erik Shoji helped ZAKSA pull off a sweep of TJ DeFalco, Taylor Averill, and Indykpol AZS Olsztyn on March 20. Shoji led the match with 83 percent positive passes, 42 percent perfect passes and no errors in reception. DeFalco, who is linked with a move to Resovia next season, led Olsztyn with 13 kills (.409), two blocks, and an ace. Averill hit .500 on his way to four kills and two blocks in the middle. ZAKSA holds a one-point advantage over Jastrzębski Węgiel at the top of the standings.
Dustin Watten posted a 73% positive and 18% perfect reception rate in LUK Lublin’s 3-1 defeat to Trefl Gdansk. Watten’s club is currently in 10th place and no longer in playoff contention.
Micah Christenson continued to run one of the most efficient offenses in the world as Zenit Kazan defeated Kuzbass Kemerovo in four sets. With Bartosz Bednorz getting a rest, Christenson got 21 and 19 points from Dmitry Volkov and Andrey Surmachevsky respectively. Christenson scored on an ace and set his team to a .309 hitting percentage.
The German Bundesliga playoff continued this past week. Avery Aylsworth did not play for VfB Friedrichshafen, which bounced back to even its quarterfinal playoff series with a sweep of WWK Volleys Herrsching.
Berlin bounced back from being eliminated from the CEV Champions League with a 3-1 win over Helios Grizzlys Giesen. After dropping the first set, Berlin held Giesen under 15 points in two of the next three sets to claim the win and the series. Jendryk scored 11 points in the middle with six kills, four blocks, and an ace. His connection with Sergey Grankin continues to impress, posting a .545 attack average in the win. Kessel came off the bench, starting the final two sets, and also finished with 11 points. He contributed nine kills (.500) and two blocks in the win. West was used as a serving substitute, and Patch came off bench to block in the first set.
Brandon Rattray made his playoffs debut for Netzhoppers KW-Bestensee on March 20. Rattray led his team with 17 points in a 3-0 defeat to SWD powervolleys Duren. His point production came on 15 kills (.266), a block, and an ace. Max Chamberlain and Blake Leeson both scored six points in the middle for Netzhoppers. Leeson scored on five kills and an ace, while Chamberlain contributed four kills, one block, and one ace. The Netzhoppers will try to stay alive and force a third match on March 24.
Spor Toto Ankara defeated Altekma in three sets on March 19. Kawika Shoji scored four points on three aces and a block while setting his team to a .243 attack average.
Dan McDonnell scored nine points in the middle for Arkas Spor. He hit .857 on six kills with seven attempts and no errors. The middle blocker also added two blocks and an ace in a 3-0 defeat to Marouf and Fenerbahce.
While Funvic Taubate won the Brazilian Superliga last season before financial shortcomings led to a relative firesale. Bruno, Lucas Saatkamp, Maurico Souza, and Douglas Souza were just a few of Brazil’s elite who left the club. After Pat Gasman of Hawaii and Felipe Brito of BYU signed with the club, there was a possibility that it would not compete this season. It reached the semifinals of the FIVB Club World Championships in December. Funvic also finished the regular season in eighth place, qualifying for the quarterfinals, and is set to face Fiat Minas. Gasman is ranked in the top 20 in the league in both blocks (sixth) and aces (14th).
Matt Knigge scored eight points in the middle for CV Guagas. He contributed four kills and four blocks with a .333 hitting percentage in a 3-0 win over Melilla Sport Capital.
Corey Chavers and Chênois Genève Volleyball advanced to the finals, defeating Jalen Penrose and Volley Schönenwerd in five sets on March 16. Unfortunately the stats from the match were not published, but Chênois Genève won the best-of-five series 3-1.
OFI Crete had a dismal regular season, winning just two matches. It picked up Dave Wieczorek, who left his club in Turkey back at the new year, but the club did not qualify for the second phase of the league. Instead it will play Fillipos Veroias in a best-of-seven series with the loser being relegated. Crete picked up sweeps on March 16, 18, and 20 to almost secure its place in the Hellenic Volley League next season. Randy Deweese and Wieczorek have led Crete in all three matches. Wieczorek has scored a total of 55 points and hit .483 with six blocks. Deweese, the rookie from UC Santa Barbara, has scored 42 points so far with a .400 hitting percentage, and nine blocks. They will look to close out the series Wednesday.
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