This is Blair Lambert’s VolleyballMag.com weekly men’s professional volleyball report, featuring Americans around the world. Got a note about a player or a comment for Blair? Email him at email@example.com
The first league championship of the season was decided just after the new year when Beijing defeated Shanghai to claim the Chinese title. Thomas Jaeschke had 12 kills (.476), three aces and a block in the deciding match. Max Holt scored on eight kills (.889), four aces and three blocks.
The latest edition of the Polish PlusLIga Team of the Week contained plenty of familiar faces, including Dave Smith, Taylor Averill, and TJ DeFalco.
Brenden Sander is back playing in Europe. After saying he was done playing indoor, Sander signed a contract with Panathinaikos in Athens for the remainder of the season. The club is taking part in the CEV Challenge Cup in addition to the Hellenic Volleyball League. One of his teammates, Jiri Kovar, was also a teammate at Lube Civitanova during his rookie season in 2018-2019.
Lube Civitanova clinched first place in Pool C and a spot in the quarterfinals with a 25-18, 25-19, 25-18 win over Benfica of Portugal last week. Gabi Garcia started at opposite and led the match with 15 kills while hitting.765
ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Kozle clinched a spot in the playoffs with a five-set win against CEZ Karlovarsko of the Czech Republic. Dave Smith scored 17 points in the middle for ZAKSA, including 13 kills (hitting .722), three blocks and an ace. Erik Shoji passed 53 percent positively and 40 percent perfectly in the 23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 15-13 win. The club remains in second place in Pool D behind Itas Trentino.
The Berlin Recycling Volleys staked its claim as the top third-place team from any pool in a 25-20, 25-16, 25-20 win against Hebar Pezardzhik of Bulgaria. Cody Kessel was used as a substitute in the second and third sets, earning a block point. Berlin remains in third place in Pool B behind Halkbank Ankara and Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie.
Micah Ma’a earned a match MVP award for Halkbank in a 21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 19-17 victory over Zawiercie. Ma’a set Halkbank to a .357 hitting percentage while scoring from an ace, a kill and a block on match point. Halkbank is level with Zawiercie with 10 points but holds the top spot in Pool B due to sets ratio. Berlin is in third with eight points.
SVG Lüneburg pulled off a 25-19, 26-28, 28-26, 18-25, 17-15 upset over Valsa Group Modena. While Modena did not use Dragan Stankovic in the middle, Lüneburg was able to weather 28 points from Adis Lagumdzjia and 18 from Earvin N’Gapeth. Jordan Ewert led Lüneburg with 17 kills and four blocks. Colton Cowell had three aces to go with 11 kills and a block. Joe Worsley put away three kills and a block while setting Lüneburg to a .315 attack average. Gage Worsley passed 30 percent of his receptions positively and 11 percent perfectly. The two teams play again next week in Italy. A Lüneburg win will see it advance to the quarterfinals. A loss in three or four sets will lead to elimination. A loss in five sets will cause a Golden Set to 15 to decide a berth in the next round.
CEV Challenge Cup
Brenden Sander saw limited action for Panathinaikos in a 25-27, 25-23, 25-21, 25-22 win over Orion Doetinchem in the first leg of the quarterfinals. He did not score any points while being used as a substitute in the second and third sets.
Dennis Del Valle passed 80 percent positively and 50 percent perfectly for A.J. Fonte Bastardo in a 26-24, 25-19, 25-21 victory against Sporting Lisbon.
Despite a flare being thrown on the court in the first set, Maccabi Tel-Aviv beat Omnia Nicosia of Cypress 25-21, 25-20, 25-16. Josh Ayzenburg put in a 50 and 32 percent passing performance in the sweep.
LUK Lublin defeated GKS Katowice in straight sets. Jeff Jendryk scored on four kills (.667) and an ace. Dustin Watten passed 50 percent of his receptions positively and 17 percent perfectly. Nicolas Szerszen contributed 12 kills in the 25-18, 25-22, 25-21 decision. Lublin started the season 0-6, but has gone on an 11-3 run since then with 31 points. The club is currently just three points away from the last playoff spot.
Indykpol AZS Olsztyn grabbed another win away from one of Poland’s top teams by way of a 25-20, 25-20, 30-28 decision over Zawiercie. Taylor Averill earned another MVP award with 13 kills (.929) and a block and had no hitting errors. Josh Tuaniga set Olsztyn to a .391 attack average and scored a point from a kill.
Asseco Resovia Rzeszów increased its lead at the top of the standings with a 25-20, 25-21, 25-13 victory over PGE Skra Bełchatów. TJ DeFalco hit .625 on his way to 11 kills. He also scored from two aces and a block.
Matt West was used as a substitute in the third and fourth sets for Cerrad Czarni Radom in a 18-25, 25-23, 25-17, 37-35 defeat to Trefl Gdańsk.
ZAKSA sweptPSG Stal Nysa at the beginning of the week. Smith registered eight points on six kills (.857) and two blocks. Shoji put in a 62 and 46 percent passing performance.
Olsztyn started the week with a 39-37, 25-14, 21-25, 25-22 win over GKS Katowice. Averil finished with seven kills (.545) and two blocks. Tuaniga set Olsztyn to a .409 hitting percentage while scoring on two aces, one kill and a block.
Zenit Saint Petersburg swept twice. Against Orenburg, Matt Anderson had six kills, two aces, and a block. He followed it up six kills and two aces against Nova.
Micah Christenson and Zenit Kazan swept Nova and beat Dynamo Moscow in four sets. Christenson had two aces and a block while setting Kazan to a .576 hitting percentage. He set Kazan to a .383 attack average to go with two kills and an ace in the win over Dynamo.
In a week that saw all of the higher-placed teams lose, except Sir Safety Perugia, Lube dropped a 22-25, 35-33, 25-20, 25-14 decision to Vero Volley Monza. Garcia started and was Lube’s leading scorer with 15 kills.
Davide Gardini was used as a serving substitute for Pallavolo Padova in a 25-22, 25-21, 25-21 loss to Perugia. He had two serves with no errors or aces.
Halkbank returned to the court after the big Champions League victory and defeated Tursad 25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 32-30. Ma’a set Halkbank to a .450 hitting percentage and scored four points of his own. Nimir Abdel Aziz led the match with 31 kills and three blocks.
Kyle Ensing led Saint Nazaire with 20 points in a 22-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-16 win over Chaumont. The victory moved Saint Nazaire three points ahead of Chaumont and into third place. Ensing finished with 16 kills (.419), three blocks, and an ace in an MVP performance. Quinn Isaacson contributed two aces, a kill and a block and set his club to a .433 hitting percentage. Michael Marshman came off the bench for Chaumont in the first set and finished the match. He contributed eight kills (.778). Pat Gasman played the first three sets for Chaumont, scoring on five kills and a block.
Kyle Dagostino padded 57 percent perfectly and 47 percent perfectly for Nice in a 16-25, 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 15-11 defeat to Paris Volley.
Tyler Mitchem scored 10 points in the middle for Plessis-Robinson in a 25-19, 15-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-11 loss to Poitiers. He finished the match with nine kills (.471) and a block.
Kyle Russell continued his impressive run of form since Christmas with 25 kills and a .536 attack efficiency against second-placed Nantes Rezé. His Arago de Sète squad eventually fell 25-18, 23-25, 25-19, 25-23.
After dropping a match over the weekend, Berlin responded with a 31-33, 27-25, 25-17, 25-20 win over SWD powervolleys Duren. Kessel was a substitute in the first two sets and started the last two sets, scoring seven points on six kills and a block. With one match left in the main round of the German Bundesliga, Berlin has clinched first place moving into the next phase of the season.
Lüneburg further established itself in third position after a 25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21 win over Netzhoppers KW Bestensee. Ewert was used as a substitute in the second and third sets, and he started the fourth set. He finished with six kills. Cowell started the first three sets, contributing seven kills. Gage Worsley posted a 65 and 29 percent passing performance. Joe Worsley set his team to a .366 attack average. He also had two kills. Ray Barsemian led the Netzhoppers with 13 kills and a block. Kyle Presho contributed six kills and Randy Deweese scored from two kills as a substitute.
CV Guagas is still unbeaten after a 25-14, 25-19, 25-10 win over Club Vóley Palma. Matt Knigge led all scorers with 15 points in the middle for Guagas. He finished with eight kills (.700), five blocks, and two aces. Brandon Rattray came off the bench in the third set and had two kills.
Corey Chavers led A.O.P. Kifisias with 15 points in a 25-12, 25-21, 25-13 victory over OFI Crete on 13 kills (.733), a block and an ace.
Tommy Carmody had six kills and two blocks in the middle for Odolena Voda in a 22-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-21 loss to Dukla Liberec.
Greg Petty scored 19 points — all on kills — for second-placed Akaa-Volley in a 25-21, 17-25, 25-21, 25-16 win against TUTO Volley. Petty hit .485.
Petty followed that up with 14 kills (.423) and two aces in a 27-25, 21-25, 25-18, 24-26, 16-14 loss to Perungan Pojat. Pojat’s Daniel Wetter had 15 kills and two blocks.
Wetter scored seven points earlier in the weekend in a straight-sets defeat to Savo Volley on six kills (.500) and a block. Savo’s David Kisiel had nine kills and a block. Michael Michelau put away six kills (.625), two blocks and an ace in the 25-21, 25-21, 26-24 win.
Savo fell to Kyky-Betset 17-25, 25-22, 26-24, 13-25, 15-9. Michelau led Savo with 13 kills, three aces and two blocks. Kisiel was used as a substitute but did not score.