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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There was plenty of action across Europe this past week as many men’s professional leagues were continuing their league schedule, and a few more kicked off. We saw the return of Micah Christenson at Zenit Kazan and a number of American players in Poland and France continued early successful runs.
Among the highlights: The three American middles in the Polish PlusLiga — Dave Smith, Taylor Averill, Jeff Jendryk — each played two matches and had zero hitting errors between them, three of the top four teams in France’s Ligue A have American players in the starting lineups and they went undefeated and have a combined overall record of 5-1.
Poland: Smith and Shoji suffered a rare defeat in the PlusLiga with ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle on Sunday. After defeating LUK Lublin on October 4, ZAKSA fell to Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie. Smith scored nine points on seven kills and two blocks during the midweek match, hitting .700. Shoji led with 54 percent perfect receptions. Jeff Jendryk scored five points in the middle for Lublin, all on kills, hitting .714. Dustin Watten finished with 50 percent positive and 20 percent perfect passes. Nicolas Szerszen contributed eight kills and a match-high four aces for Lublin.
ZAKSA had a chance to extend the weekend match to the tiebreak but faltered late in the fourth to fall to Zawiercie. Smith finished the week without an attack error, earning seven kills on 11 attempts. He also added three blocks and an ace. Shoji put in a 44 and 28 percent performance in serve receive.
Lublin remained winless after a 3-1 defeat to Jastrzębski Węgiel on Friday. Jendryk, like Smith, went through the entire week without an attack erro. He finished with six kills (.462) and two blocks. Watten passed 44 percent of his receptions positively and 26 percent perfectly. Szerszen led the team with 17 points.
Taylor Averill and Josh Tuaniga picked up Indykpol AZS Olsztyn’s first win of the season on Saturday. The week did not start out promising, as Averill’s 11-point performance was not enough to prevail over Jastrzębski Węgiel. Averil contributed eight kills, a block, and two aces. He also hit .667 without committing an error in attack. Tuaniga set the team to a .378 attack average.
Olsztyn pulled off a 3-1 win over GKS Katowice on Saturday. Averill hit .750 on his way to six kills to go along with three blocks. He also went through the entire week without an attack error. Tuaniga set the team to an astounding .507 percentage and had two kills and a block.
Asseco Resovia Rzeszów remained undefeated after picking up two wins. TJ DeFalco scored nine points in a sweep of Barkom Kazany Lyiv on October 5. He hit .333 with six kills, two aces, and a block.
DeFalco had his first breakout match of the season on Sunday in a 3-1 win over Ślepsk Malow Suwałki. He led the team with 19 points from 12 kills, four blocks, and three aces. DeFalco’s block and ace totals tied match-highs, and he hit .400. Jakob Kochanowski continued his impressive run in the middle for Resovia with 15 points.
BBTS Bielsko-Biała picked up its first win Monday. First, Jake Hanes led his team with 16 points in a straight-sets loss to PGE Skra Bełchatów on October 5. Hanes finished the match with 14 kills and a .321 attack efficiency. The former Ohio State Buckeye also added a block and an ace. Then Hanes led with 25 points in a 3-2 victory over Cerrad Czarni Radom. His 18 kills came with a .333 attack average. He also contributed four blocks and three aces in the win.
Russia: Micah Christenson took the court for the first time this season as Zenit Kazan swept Nova. He set Kazan to a .470 hitting percentage with an ace and two kills. As was the case last year, Dmitry Volkov (14) and Maxim Mikhailov (13) were his top scorers.
Matt Anderson is still not with Zenit St. Petersburg. The Russian publication, Business Online, said he is expected to join the team for the third round. If that report is true, Anderson will be with the team for its match Saturday against Nova.
Italy: Gabi Garcia got the start at opposite for Lube Civitanova but was replaced by Alex Nikolov in the second set of a 3-2 defeat to Pallavolo Padova on October 9. Garcia scored six points on six kills and hit .250. Nikolov, normally an outside hitter, finished with 10 kills, two blocks, and hit .100.
Türkiye: Halkbank Ankara traveled to Tursad for a mid-week match last Wednesday. Setter Micah Ma’a and company claimed a four-set victory behind 30 points from Nimir Abdel-Aziz. Ma’a led the team with three blocks and matched Nimir’s two aces. He set his team to a .418 hitting percentage.
Halkbank followed up the win with a sweep of SK Ankara on October 10. Ma’a scored five points on two kills, two aces and a block. He set Halkbank to a .526 attack efficiency.
Dan McDonnell had three kills in as many attacks for Arkas Spor on October 5. The middle blocker also added a block in a sweep of Tokat Belediye Plevne. McDonnell had a slow night in attack on October 8, but Arkas pulled out a tie-break victory over Hekimoglu Global. He hit minus .167 with just one kill, but added a block and three aces.
France: Pat Gasman continues to produce impressive numbers for Chaumont. The middle blocker from Hawaii led his team with 14 points and earned the match MVP in a four-set win over Tours on Thursday. Gasman put away nine kills, hitting .500, to go along with two blocks and three aces. Mike Marshaman came off the bench in the third set and finished the match opposite of Gasman. He finished with two kills and a block.
Kyle Russell led Arago de Sète in scoring en route to a 3-1 win over Nantes Reze. It was Russell’s second consecutive 25-point performance. The opposite from UC Irvine finished with 22 kills, two blocks, and an ace while hitting .432.
Quinn Isaacson had Saint Nazaire running on all cylinders in a sweep over Poitiers on Saturday. He set the team to a .438 attack average and got over 25 percent of his attack production from the middle. Isaacson also contributed two blocks and an ace. Kyle Ensing was one point away from leading his team, averaging four points per set. The opposite scored on 11 kills and a block and hit .219.
Germany: The Bundesliga opened up its season this past weekend. Matt West, on a short-term contract with Helios Grizzlys Giesen, set his club to a five-set win over Netzhoppers in the curtain-raiser on Saturday. His team hit.221 and he led his team with three aces. Randy Deweese tied a team-high 18 points for Netzhoppers including a match-high five aces. He hit .152 on his way to 11 kills to accompany two blocks. Max Chamberlain scored five points in just over three sets of action. He put away three kills, hit .125 and scored on two blocks. Chamberlain was replaced by Tyler Presho in the fourth set. Presho had one kill on two attempts.
James Shaw led Herrsching to a win over SWD powervolleys Duren on Saturday. His team hit .252 and Shaw contributed three kills and a block.
Cody Kessell started at outside hitter for the Berlin Recycling Volleys in a sweep of TSV Haching Munich. Kessel scored 11 points, all from kills, and hit .529.
Unlike last season, when Joe Worsley and Jordan Ewert played SVG Lüneburg’s first matches on the road, they faced VCO Berlin at home to open the domestic campaign. Worsley set Lüneburg to a .423 attack efficiency in a sweep. Ewert had 14 points and was the only player to reach double-digit scoring. He h ad seven kills in 10 errorless attacks and added five aces. Colton Cowell played in the first two sets, scoring six points. Cowell put away three kills, hit .222, and had two blocks and an ace. Gage Worsley earned the match MVP award for his performance as libero. He posted a 77 percent positive and 38 percent perfect passing performance.
Spain: CV Guagas remained unbeaten with a sweep over Melila Sport Capital on Saturday. Matt Knigge scored 13 points in the middle on 10 kills and three blocks, hitting .769 with no attack errors. Brandon Rattray, recovering from injury, was back on the roster, but not in the lineup.
Also: In Portugal, Dennis Del Valley and Bastardo swept VC Viana-Casa Peixoto as he was 38% positive and 25% perfect passing …. In the Netherlands, Ryan Coenen and Lycurgus beat Sliderecht in five as he had 22 points … Daniel Matheney had 18 kills, hit .518 and had two aces in Denmark as his VK Vestsjælland lost in five to Gentofte Volley 3. Also in Denmark, Max Rosenfeld’s Nordenskov UIF team swept odense and had seven kills, hitting .778, with a block while teammate Patrick Ross had nine kills, hitting .444, with a block; and setter Seamus McDonagh;s Hvidovre VK team lost in five to Marienlyst-Fortuna Volley as he had a kill, a block, an ace and his team hit .209.