This is our weekly report on USA men playing International professional volleyball:
Sir Safety Perugia, the top seed in the Italian SuperLega playoffs and Coppa Italia Champions, fought back from being down 2-1 in order to force a fifth set with Itas Trentino on March 30. Though Matt Anderson’s club fell 15-12 in the tiebreak, it earned a vital point. A victory in three or four sets on April 7 would be enough to send Perugia through to the final. A win in five sets would force a golden set to 15.
After the two sides took each of the first two sets, Trentino emphatically broke the tie with a 25-16 win in the third set. Perugia had to win the next three sets in order to advance.While it was able to build a small but sustainable lead in the fourth set, and overturn a small deficit in the fifth set, Trentino jumped out to an early lead in the all-important golden set. Srecko Lisinac, one of two Serbian middle blockers for Trentino, brought up match point at 14-12. A sideout put Wilfredo Leon back at the service line.
Leon’s .87 aces per set are the most in the Champions League. He also led the Coppa Italia competition with 1.00 aces per set, and has been first in the regular season of the SuperLega with .73. He opened his service run with an ace off of Danielle Lavia to tie the set at 14. That run was short-lived as he served long in his next attempt. A missed serve and an impressive out of system kill from Giulio Pinali, who came in to replace Matey Kaziyski, gave Trentino another match point.
Leon’s pass took Simone Gianelli, the setter for Perugia and the Italian national team, out to the three-meter line and about one meter away from the left side line. While he tracked down the pass, Gianelli glanced across the net to see the Trentino kept its outside hitter, Alessandro Michieletto (standing at 6-foot-11) on the right side while sending its 6-foot setter to the left side in order to block the back-row opposite attacker. Gianelli saw Michieletto set up next to Marko Podrascanin, who led with five blocks. While Matt Anderson was getting ready to attack, and was hitting .516 with 20 kills (also had two aces and a block), Gianelli tried to exploit the weaker blocker by sending the ball back to Kamil Rychlicki on the right hand side. His subsequent attack missed the blocker’s hands and went long.
Trentino reaches the final for the third time in six seasons. Only Zenit Kazan has more appearances in that time span. It lost to Dave Smith and ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle last year. Trentino is looking for its first title since 2011. This is seemingly an unlikely run back to the title match after losing Nimir Abdel-Aziz, Lucarelli and Gianelli from last year’s lineup.
ZAKSA went into its match with Jastrzębski Węgiel only needing to win two sets in order to advance. It won the first two sets and then pulled its starters, eventually winning 15-12 in the tiebreak. Dave Smith was a perfect three kills on three attempts in the first two sets. Erik Shoji passed43 percent of his receptions positive and perfect in the first two sets.
ZAKSA will look to defend its title in a rematch of last year’s championship. Last year was the first time a Polish club won the Champions League, which dates back to 2000. Płomień Milowice were the only other Polish European champions, winning the CEV European Champions Cup back in 1978.
There was only one match in Italy’s top flight this past weekend. Trentino, coming off of a huge success in the Champions League, had to face Gas Sales Piacenza this past Sunday for the last spot in the semifinals. Piacenza was coming off of a five-set win last week in which Aaron Russell led the way with 33 points. Russell got the start again, but instead of starting Francisco Recine (the league’s most valuable player for the month of March) as the other outside hitter, Bernardi Lorenzo took a different approach. He instead went with Damiano Catania, the backup libero, to start opposite of Russell.
The change in tactics did not work out well. Recine came off the bench in the first set and started the second, but he hit minus .091 with three kills. Thibault Rossard played with Russell in the third and final set. The inclusion of the French outside hitter to replace the Italian Recine meant that Max Holt could not play in the third set. He left the after scoring one point on one kill in four attempts. Russell finished with four kills (.154), one block, and one ace.
Michieletto did not show any fatigue after playing 16 sets in the 10 days for Trentino. He led with 14 points, including six aces. Trentino will move on to play Lube Civitanova in the semifinals.
ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle dropped a five-set decision to Trefl Gdansk on April. It was a match that Gdansk needed to win in order to qualify for the playoffs. The point earned by ZAKSA put it at the top of the table due to sets ratio. Similar to its match on April 7 in the Champions League, the starters were removed after tinning the first two sets. Smith scored on two kills (.167) in those first two sets. Shoji passed five serves with 20 percent of them being rated as perfect.
Indykpol AZS Olsztyn, the sixth seed, opened the playoffs with a 3-1 upset against PGE Skra Belchatow on the road. TJ DeFalco scored 17 points on 13 kills (.357), two blocks, and two aces. Taylor Averill finished with seven kills (.700) and a match-high four blocks in the middle. Karol Butryn led all players with 30 points for Olsztyn. The second match of the series will be on Friday.
Zenit Kazan swept Ural Ufa on Sunday. Micah Christenson set Kazan to a .338 hitting percentage. Andrey Surmachevsky, a product of Zenit Kazan’s youth system earned a rare start and led the team with 16 points on 11 kills, three blocks, and an ace. Kazan has clinched the top seed in the playoffs and has one more regular-season match on Saturday against Yugra-Samotlor.
Berlin Recycling Volleys picked up two wins this past week, including a 3-1 decision over United Volleys Frankfurt on Sunday to book its ticket to the final against VfB Friedrichshafen. Jeff Jendryk put away 11 kills in the middle with no errors and a .611 hitting percentage. He also led the match with three blocks. Patch played the first two sets, scoring on eight kills with a .176 hitting percentage. Matt West earned an ace on set point in the first set. Kessel was used as a substitute in each set without scoring.
While the playoffs have not started in Turkey, the semifinals of the Turkish Cup took place on Monday. Spor Toto Ankara dropped a 3-2 decision to Galatasaray. Kawika Shoji set Spor Toto to a .360 hitting percentage while adding a kill and a block. Former Pepperdine Wave Maurice Torres led Galatasaray with 14 points on 13 kills, a block with a .160 attack average.
Dan McDonnell scored five points in the middle for Arkas Spor in a 3-1 victory over Ziraat Bankasi to reach the final. His points came from a block and four kills (.667). Arkas Spor will play Galatasaray in the final.
Savo Volley, the top seed in the playoffs dropped its first match of the final to VaLePa on Sunday. Michael Michelau led Savo with 26 points. He hit .417 on his way to 19 kills to go along with four blocks and three aces. Michelau is currently the second-leading scorer in the playoffs with 5.12 points per set, second in serving with .5 aces per set, and the best blocker at .88 blocks per set.
Jalen Penrose, the leading scorer in Switzerland, scored 12 points for Volley Schönenwerd in a 3-0 defeat to Lausanne. He scored on 11 kills (.080) and a block. The best-of-three series for third place is tied at 1-1.
Corey Chavers scored 14 points on 13 kills (.357) and an ace in a 3-1 defeat to Amriswil on April 7. That was followed up with seven kills (.118) on Sunday in a 3-0 loss for Chênois Genève Volleyball. Amriswil took the series and the Swiss championship.
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