Editor’s note: Blair Lambert covers international men’s volleyball for VolleyballMag.com, focusing on Americans playing abroad. He will have updates throughout the professional 2022-23 season. This report gets a handle on who’s where.
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With the FIVB World Championships in the rear-view mirror, focus on the world of men’s volleyball has now transferred to the upcoming professional season. As always, each year brings forth a myriad of changes, and very few players are remaining at the same clubs from the previous season. Here are some notable signings and transfers as most leagues start within the next two to three weeks.
Italy: The biggest surprise is the lack of American players signed with clubs in the Italian SuperLega. Matt Anderson, Aaron Russell, Max Holt, and Thomas Jaeschke have all left their respective clubs. The only American player who remains on an Italian roster is Gabi Garcia, the backup opposite at Lube Civitanova. Garcia, who changed his sport nationality from Puerto Rico to compete for the USA this past spring, played in every match but five last year. He also finished the season as the league’s best server (which was given to the player with the best ace efficiency). Garcia will be joined by Alex Nikolov, the Bulgarian international who played one spectacular season at Long Beach State before signing a deal with Lube.
Poland: David Smith and Erik Shoji, both mainstays in the Team USA lineup this summer, are back with ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle. ZAKSA has won the CEV Champions League the last two seasons, with Smith starting on both of those teams. Shoji joined the squad last season where he and Smith won the Polish PlusLiga title (after losing in the final in 2021). ZAKSA was dealt a huge blow to its lineup with the loss of Kamil Semeniuk to Sir Safety Perugia of Italy. The defending Polish champions had a difficult time finding someone to fill that role, being turned down by Garret Muagututia and Thomas Jaeschke, before landing on Denis Karyagin from Bulgaria.
Taylor Averill is staying at Indykpol AZS Olsztyn. He will be joined by Josh Tuaniga. The setter from Long Beach State comes to the club after spending the last three seasons at Ślepsk Malow Suwałki.
Olsztyn loses TJ DeFalco to Asseco Resovia Rzeszów. Resovia has a history of American players on its roster including Smith, the recently-retired Kawika Shoji, Jaeschke, Jeff Jendryk, Russell Holmes, Paul Lotman and Ryan Millar. DeFalco trying to help Resovia win its fourth PlusLiga title, and its first since 2013.
Jendryk made the move back to Poland after playing last year with the Berlin Recycling Volleys. He played one year at Resovia in 2020-2021 in a season that did not meet club expectations. Jendryk had a resurgence in Germany last year, and he will be joining up with Dustin Watten at LUK Lublin.
Jake Hanes remains with BBST Bielsko-Biala this season. The opposite who played for the USA in the Volleyball Nations League this summer, helped the club win promotion to the PlusLiga from the Tauron 1.Liga (Poland’s second division). While he began the season primarily on the bench, he became the team’s leading scorer by the end of the season and through the playoffs.
Turkey: After signing a contract extension with GKS Katowice in Poland, setter Micah Ma’a ended up signing with Halkbank Ankara. His opposite will be none other than Nimir Abdel-Aziz, the Dutchman who played at Modena last season. Ma’a and company will play in the Champions League this year, and were drawn into a group with Berlin, Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie of Poland, and a winner of one of the play-in matches.
Russia: USA setter Micah Christenson has chosen to stay in Russia to play at Zenit Kazan. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kazan will not get to play in any European competitions. He will try to improve upon the shock defeat in the Russian Super League semifinals last year.
Matt Anderson apparently had a contract with Beijing, but it looks like the USA opposite will return to Russia. Business Online, a Russian media outlet, has reported that Anderson will play at Zenit St. Petersburg this season. Anderson spent six seasons in Russia from 2012 to 2019, winning four Champions League titles and five domestic championships with Zenit Kazan.
France: Quinn Isaacson, a rookie setter from Ball State, will make his pro debut with Saint-Nazaire. He will be joined by Kyle Ensing, who started his career at Berlin and played the last two seasons in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Ensing established himself as a star this summer with the USA at VNL and Worlds.
Chaumont picked up two American middle blockers in Pat Gasman and Michael Marshman. Gasman played his rookie season in Brazil with Funvic Natal. Marshman comes to Chaumont after two seasons in Cambrai, where he helped the club earn promotion to Ligue A in 2019-2020.
Kyle Russell, who played for the USA in the FIVB World Championships, will go back to France after two seasons in Korea. Russell will suit up for Arago de Sète. Russell played part of a season in France with AS Cannes before the COVID shut down in March of 2020.
Kyle Dagostino, who signed halfway through the season last year in Finland, is going to play for Nice this year. Dagostino, a libero from Stanford, also played in VNL.
Germany: Cody Kessel, who was featured on the USA roster in his first major FIVB tournament this summer, will stay with the Berlin Recycling Volleys. He is the lone American staying in Berlin. Jendryk and Matt West are on other clubs, and Ben Patch has stepped away from volleyball for the time being but remains living in Berlin. This will be Kessel’s fourth consecutive season with the defending champions of the German Bundesliga. As mentioned earlier, Berlin will also be in the Champions League.
Matt West has had an interesting summer. He has been without a club for most of the summer. He was signed to PGE Skra Belchatow for training purposes while Grzegorz Łomacz was fulfilling his duties with the Polish National Team. West went from there to Germany to help Helios Grizzlys Giesen while Fedor Ivanov recovers from finger surgery. It is unclear what West will do when the Finnish setter returns to the team.
James Shaw will be playing his first season in Germany with WWK Volleys Herrsching as a setter. His path to the German Bundesliga has been long and unusual. After playing his rookie season at Kioene Padova in Italy, he signed with Perugia as the backup to Luciano DeCecco. He and Aaron Russell won the Italian SuperLega that year. Shaw made the decision to change positions to opposite and signed late with ZAKSA as a backup. An injury forced him to league the club before finishing the season. He signed with Narbonne in France for the 2019-2020 season as the starting opposite, but illness and injury caused an early end to that season. Shaw went back to Italy to play for Piacenza as the backup opposite in 2020-2021. A few disappointing results in the Coppa Italia group stage led to the firing of Andrea Gardini (the coach who also brought him to ZAKSA), and Shaw’s contract was also terminated. He then took to training on the beach to continue his playing career, but then was brought back as a setter for Team USA in the Volleyball Nations League and the Pan Am Cup.
The Worsleys have been reunited for the first time since they played in 2019 at the University of Hawaii. Gage will join Joe at SVG Lüneburg after playing a season in Bulgaria with Deya. Jordan Ewert is still in the Lüneburg lineup and also played with the Worsley brothers at the Pac Rim Volleyball Club. Colton Cowell, who also played at the University of Hawaii, graduating with Gage in 2021, has been added to the lineup. The roster also boasts three Canadian players in Xander Ketrzynski, Jordan Schnitzer, and Pearson Eshenko.
Max Chamberlain is still with Netzhoppers KW-Bestensee this season, but Brandon Rattry and Blake Leeson are no longer his teammates. Randy Deweese arrived from Greece, where he had a difficult season with OFI Crete last year. Raymond Barsemian also joins the team from CV Manacor in Spain, and Kyler Presho will start his pro career with the German club.
Brazil: Austin Wilmot will start his pro career at the Minas Tenis Clube. The middle blocker from Pepperdine joins the Brazilian Cup winners and runners-up in the Brazilian Superliga. He will team with former national team players William and Vissotto.
Japan: Aaron Russell will be the lone non-Asian foreign player on the JT Thunders in Hiroshima. This will mark the first time in Russell’s career that he will not play in Italian SuperLega. The Penn State alumni first signed with Perugi for the 2015-2016 season, and has since played with Trentino and Perugia.
Jalen Penrose, another Penn State product, will also be playing in Japan for Safilva Hokkaido. His club competes in the second division.
China: As mentioned, Jaeschke turned down an offer from ZAKSA, and reports have him going to Beijing this year. There has been no official announcement from the club.
There are also reports from Italian media of Max Holt leaving Piacenza to play in Beijing this season. Again, nothing confirmed.
Spain: Matt Knigge, the MVP of the NVA Championships, will stay in CV Guagas this year. This will be his third season with the club where he won a championship in 2021. He will be joined by Brandon Rattray, his teammate on the Las Vegas Ramblers. Rattray was the leading scorer in Spain back in the 2020-2021 season with Arenal Emeve before playing in Germany last year.
Portugal: Ryan Manoogian, NVA champion, is headed to Fonte de Bastardo in the Azores. He will share libero duties with Dennis Del Valle, a Puerto Rican player who played at Penn State.
Jon Carlson, a graduate of Concordia Irvine, will start his pro career at AA Espinho.
Finland: Michael Michelau is returning to Savo Volley after reaching the finals of the FInnish Mestaruusliiga last season. He will joined by David Kisiel, an opposite from Grand Canyon University who played at Limburg last year in the Netherlands.
Greg Petty has signed with Akaa-Volley after spending last season in Spain with CV Teruel.
Middle Daniel Wetter had one more year of eligibility left at CSUN, but decided to start his pro career instead and will play for Team Lakkapää.
Netherlands: Ryan Coenen started his career in the Polish second division at BBTS Bielsko-Biala last year. This season he will be playing for Lycurgus Groningen and joined by Kyle McCauley, a rookie out of UC San Diego.
Israel: Josh Ayzenburg remains at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he has won the last two Israel Premier League championships. While Kyle Ensing and JT Hatch are no longer with him, UCLA-product Sam Burgi will play his rookie season with him in Tel Aviv.
Matt Hilling has signed with Happoel Ironi Kiryat Ata in the Isreal Premier League. He was a runner-up at the NVA Championships with the Costa Mesa Stunners this summer.
Anthony Koyfman remains in Israel. The middle blocker who played at Belmont Abbey has signed with Maccabi Hod Hasharon.
Denmark: Daniel Matheney, a rookie from UCLA, will play his first pro season at VK Vestsjælland.
Seasmus McDonagh will also start his pro career in Denmark with Hvidovre Volleyball Klub.
Patrick Ross, an outside hitter from McKendree, will play his rookie season with Nordenskov UIF.
Christopher Hall, a setter from USC, is moving from Troy to Middelfart VK to start his career.
Sweden: Relyea Speller is continuing his career at Vingåkers Volleybollklubb. This is his first season in Sweden after playing in denmark, Estonia, Portugal, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey.
Ian Parish is moving from Westwood to Sweden. The middle blocker from UCLA is starting his career at Floby VK.
Others of Note: Corey Chavers, NVA runner-up with the Stunners, is headed to Greece to play with A.O.P. Kiffisias … Jeff Menzel is playing Bahrain this year for Al-Nasser … Keenan Sanders is making the move from Finland to Romania this season, and the middle blocker will play for Rapid Bucarest … Tim McIntosh has signed with Hypo Tirol in Innsbruck, Austria … Garrett Zolg, a setter from Loyola University Chicago, will play his rookie season with Barrus Võru VK in Estonia.