This is our weekly report on USA men playing International professional volleyball:
Last weekend’s playoff matches resulted in no surprises, with the top seeds all winning, and all but one match ended in sweeps. With the potential of all four semifinalists being determined after Sunday, a few underdogs did not look like they were ready for their championship runs to end. Lube Civitanova was the first club to advance to the semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Vero Volley Monza on Saturday.
Gabi Garcia, who became eligible to play for the United States national team this week, was used as a substitute and scored two points on two kills. Lucarelli led the match with 22 points, followed by 18 from Ivan Zaytsev.
Matt Anderson led Sir Safety Perugia in serve receive with 63 percent positive passes. He also contributed eight kills (.217) and an ace. Wilfredo Leon scored 16 on 13 kills (.440), a block, and two aces. Kamil Rychlicki paced Perugia with a .565 hitting percentage. He finished with 15 kills on the night as his club moved on to the semifinals.
Allianz Milano had the difficult task of coming back from a match deficit to defeat Leo Shoes Modena without Barthelemy Chinenyeze, and Jean Patry not having played opposite since coming back from illness. Thomas Jaeschke led Milano with 21 points on 18 kills (.485) and three blocks. Yuki Ishikawa added 15 kills (.310), three blocks, and an ace. Though Earvin N’Gapeth and Yoandy Leal both contributed 23 points for Modena in a 3-2 win, eliminating Milano from championship contention.
Aaron Russell has had a forgettable season with Gas Sales Piacenza. He had played in fewer than three sets in half of the regular season matches and only produced double-digit points on six occasions. He got the rare start over Thibault Rossard on Sunday as Piacenza was looking for its first playoff victory since April 12, 2014. Russell took full advantage of the opportunity, scoring 33 points (just two points off of the season-high in the Italian SuperLega). After being down 0-2, Piacenza rallied back to take the next three, including a 24-22 tiebreak. Russell led with five aces and 23 kills while hitting .523. Max Holt scored seven points in the middle on three kills and match-high four blocks. Alessandro Michieletto finished the match with 18 points, including four aces. Matey Kaziyski led Trentino with 24 points.
PIacenza is just one win away from reaching the semifinals for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.Trentino has a difficult road ahead this week. After winning a five-set match to Perugia on Wednesday, and dropping a five-set decision on Sunday, Trentino will need to beat Perugia on Thursday and Piacenza on Sunday in order to advance in both competitions.
ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle went into the weekend in second place. It had a chance to immediately change that situation with a match against first-placed Jastrzębski Węgiel. The two teams met earlier in the week in the CEV Champions League semifinals, a match won by ZAKSA in straight sets. Jastrzębski had a number of players out from illness, and the others were seemingly rested ahead of the second leg of the Champions League semifinals on Thursday. Erik Shoji led ZAKSA with 50 percent positive and 30 percent perfect passes in another 3-0 sweep. Kaczmarek and Semeniuk ZAKSA with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Dave Smith did not play.
Two American setters squared off on Friday when GKS Katowice played Ślepsk Malow Suwałki. Micah Ma’a set Katowice to a .427 hitting percentage in a 3-2 win. Ma’a also added four blocks, two kills, and an ace. Josh Tuaniga scored on an ace while setting Suwałki to a .319 attack efficiency in the loss. Katowice will possibly finish with the seventh seed. Trefl Gdansk trails Ma’a and company by three points, though has two matches to make up to finish the season. Those matches are against the top two teams in the standrings, ZAKSA and Jastrzębski.
Indykpol AZS Olsztyn fell in straight sets to Trefl Gdansk on Sunday. TJ DeFalco led Olsztyn with 12 points on 10 kills, one block, one ace, and a .412 attack average. Taylor Averill did not play. Olsztyn clinched the sixth seed heading into the playoffs.
Dustin Watten posted a 55 percent positive and 30 percent perfect reception rate in LUK Lublin’s 3-1 defeat to Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie. Lublin finishes the regular season in 11th place with 24 points and an 8-18 record.
Zenit Kazan picked up another sweep this weekend. This time it came in the form of a sweep of Fakel Novy Urengoy. Many Kazan starters, including Micah Christenson, Maxim Mikhailov, Artem Volvich, and Bartosz Bednors did not suit up for Kazan, who clinched the top seed in the playoffs with two matches left in the regular season.
The Bundesliga playoffs continued with the semifinals series on Saturday. VfB Friedrichshafen was just one set away from being eliminated in the quarterfinals and needed five sets to take the first match against SWD powervolleys Duren last week. Mark Lebedew’s squad responded with a sweep over Duren behind 17 points from Vojin Caci. Avery Ayslworth came off the bench in the third set and completed one pass.
The Berlin Recycling Volleys, who went through the regular season undefeated, suffered just its third domestic defeat of the year with a 3-2 defeat to United Volleys Frankfurt. Berlin relied on its deep bench in order to overcome a two-set deficit to force a tiebreak. Jeff Jendryl was subbed out in the third set with three kills (.125). Ben Patch started the first two sets, scoring on 8 kills (.176) and a block, though he was replaced by Marek Sotola. Cody Kessel came into the match for Timothee Carle in the first set and played the next four sets. He scored 12 points on kills while hitting .478. The teams are now tied at a match apiece in the best-of-five series.
Spor Toto Ankara dropped a 3-1 decision to Galatasaray on Friday in the last regular season match. Kawika Shoji set Spor Toto to a .219 hitting percentage while adding an ace and two blocks. Former Pepperdine Wave, Maurice Torres, led Galatasaray with 25 points on 21 kills, two blocks, and an ace. Shoji and Spor Toto will face Allpower Aku Cizre in the semifinals of the fifth place playoffs.
Dan McDonnell scored two points in the middle for Arkas Spor. His points came from a block and an ace in a 3-0 win over Allpower Aku Cizre. Arkas Spor will play Halkbank Ankara in the semifinals of the championship playoffs.
Funvic Taubate were defeated by Fiat Minas in two consecutive matches. Pat Gasman’s club fell in straight sets on Thursday. Gasman finished with three kills and a .375 attack average.
Ray Barsemian scored 10 points for Conectabalear CV Manacor in a 3-1 loss to Melilla Sport Capital. His points came on nine kills and a block with a .174 hitting percentage. That loss eliminated Manacor from the playoffs.
After losing in five sets to CV Teruel last week, CV Guagas picked up a pair of sweeps on Saturday and Sunday to advance to the semifinals. Matt Knigge scored four points in just under two sets of action for Guagas in the first match. His points came from three kills and a block. He did not play in the second match.
While he did not play, Michael Michelau and Savo Volley defeated Hurrikaani-Loimaa in three sets to advance to the finals of the Finnish Mestaruusliiga. Savo Volley will face VaLePa starting in the final series, starting on April 10.
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