Editor’s note: Blair Lambert covers international men’s volleyball for VolleyballMag.com, focusing on Americans playing abroad and will have updates throughout the professional 2022-23 season.
 Got a note about a player or a comment? Email blairlambert2@gmail.com

American players kicked off their leagues in Brazil and Japan last week as play throughout Europe continued. Micah Ma’a made another statement in Türkiye, Gabi Garcia came off the bench to jump start a comeback in Italy, TJ DeFalco remained perfect in Poland, Micah Christenson got his team back on track in Russia, and there is a new team back at the top of the standings in France.

The Polish Super Cup takes place Wednesday between ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle and Jastrzębski Węgiel. It pits last season’s PlusLiga Champion against the winner of last year’s Polish Cup, the only competition that ZAKSA competed in last season and did not win.

Since ZAKSA won both the PlusLiga and the Polish Cup last year, Jastrzębski was chosen to take part as runners-up of the PlusLiga. Dave Smith and Erik Shoji’s team defeated Jastrzębski in the final of the PlusLiga Playoffs, the final of the Polish Cup, and the semifinals of the CEV Champions League last season.

Jastrzębski defeated ZAKSA in three sets in last year’s Super Cup. This came after upsetting ZAKSA in the finals of the 2021 PlusLiga playoffs. Jastrzębski comes into the match with a 5-0 record in the league and a full 15 points. ZAKSA is currently 3-2 and down in sixth position.

Competing in multiple competitions domestically and abroad poses a number of challenges for players and clubs. A perfect example of this is seen in the week that CV Guagas endured:

The club from Las Palmas, Spain, had a match in Mallorca on October 15. Matt Knigge and Brandon Rattray flew back from Mallorca to the airport just outside of Las Palmas the day after the match on October 16, having to stop in Madrid along the way. The next day they flew back to Madrid to catch a connecting flight to Istanbul. After staying the night in Istanbul, the team caught a flight from Istanbul to Varna, Bulgaria on October 18. They traveled by bus from Varna to Burgas, where they played their CEV Challenge Cup match on October 20. On October 21, the team left Burgas to go back to Varna on a bus. They then flew to Istanbul, then to Madrid, and finally landed back just outside of Las Palmas that night. This full day of travel preceded a league match on October 22. There were nine flights in nine days along with two bus trips, and they still were able to earn a few victories.

Jordan Ewert receives a serve with Gage Worsley backing him up in a CEV Cup win on October 19/cev.eu

CEV Cup

SVG Lüneburg progressed to the main phase after taking the second leg against Budva of Montenegro on October 19. Jordan Ewert’s 20 points led the way for the German club in a 3-1 victory. Ewert scored on 16 kills and four aces while hitting .323. Ewert also led with 80 percent positive and 40 percent perfect passes. Joe Worsely played the first three sets for Lüneburg, setting the team to a .342 attack efficiency, and had two kills. Gage Worsley put in a 56 percent positive and 22 percent perfect passing performance in serve receive. Lüneburg advances to the round of 32, where it will face Dynamo Bucuresti of Romania.

James Shaw and WWK Volleys Herrsching opened their European campaign on October 19 with a 3-2 loss to Lindaren Volley Amriswil of Switzerland. Shaw scored on two kills, two aces, and two blocks, while setting Herrsching to a .339 attack efficiency. Stijn van Tilburg led the match with 23 points on 21 kills and two blocks while hitting .414. They will play again Wednesday. Herrsching needs to win in three or four sets to directly advance. A victory in five sets will lead to a golden set to 15 points to determine who survives to the next round.

CEV Challenge Cup

CV Guagas came into its October 20 match with Deya Volley needing a win or a loss in five sets to advance to the next round. Unfortunately it dropped a 3-1 decision that led to a golden set to determine which club would move forward. Deya jumped out early in that final set and held on for the 15-13 victory. Matt Knigge had nine kills and four blocks. He hit .538 on the night. Brandon Rattray started the first three sets and was used as a substitute in the golden set. He led Guagas with 18 kills and a block while hitting .333.

Poland

Jake Hanes and BBTS Bielsko-Biała started off the weekend with a tall task by way of Jastrzębski Węgiel on October 21. Hanes had nine kills and hit .316.

Poland’s other undefeated club, Asseco Resovia Rzeszów, stayed unbeaten but fell to second in the standings after a 3-2 win over PGE Skra Bełchatów on October 22. TJ DeFalco tied a match-high 19 points on the night with 15 kills and four aces and hit .286.. He was matched by Jakub Bucki’s 19 points, who filled in for Maciej Muzaj at opposite without skipping a beat.

The biggest surprise in the Polish PlusLiga thus far is Stal Nysa. The club where Mitch Stahl played last season is currently 4-1 and in third place after sweeping ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle on October 21. That is ZAKSA’s second loss in three matches heading into the Polish Super Cup this week. Dave Smith hit .000 and finished with five points. He had three kills and two blocks. Erik Shoji passed 71 percent positively and 35 percent perfectly.

Josh Tuaniga led Indykpol AZS Olsztyn to an upset over Zawiercie on October 22/siatkarskaliga/pl

Indykpol AZS Olsztyn pulled off a big five-set win over Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie on October 22 to become one of six teams in the league with a 3-2 record. Taylor Averill’s 17 points were only behind 23 points from Karol Butryn, the team’s opposite. Averill had 10 kills, two aces, and five blocks with a .750 hitting percentage. Averil has 11 blocks over the last two matches. Josh Tuaniga scored on an ace and a kill while setting Olsztyn to a .357 attack efficiency.

LUK Lublin stayed winless, dropping its October 23 match to GKS Katowice in five sets. Dustin Watten passed 65 percent positively and 20 percent perfectly. Jeff Jendryk came off the bench in the second two sets and started the last two sets. He finished with a block and a kill while hitting .333. Nicolas Szerszen had 16 kills and three aces.

Russia

After losing to Dynamo Moscow the previous week, Micah Christenson and Zenit Kazan bounced back to take two victories. Christenson set Kazan to a .465 hitting percentage in a tie-break win over Lokomotiv Novosibirsk on October 19. Kazan got 21 points from Dmitry Volkov and 17 from Maxim Mikhailov in a match where they had to overturn a 0-2 deficit.

Kazan was able to rest many of its starters on October 23 in a sweep of Bulder Minsk. Sam Deroo of Belgium led with 15 points and Christenson was only used in two sets when he set Kazan to a .391 attack average.

Italy

Lube Civitanova and Itas Trentino played their match that was originally scheduled for October 30 last week due to the Super Coppa taking place this weekend.

Trentino jumped out to a 2-0 advantage. Gabi Garcia then came off the bench for Ivan Zaytsev, who had five points with a .000 attack efficiency. Garcia ended up producing 13 kills, two blocks, and an ace. The American opposite hit .167 in the 3-2 comeback victory. Alex Nikolov started the second set in place of Mattia Bottolo and the last three sets for Marlon Yant. He led Lube with 19 points on 14 kills, four aces, a block, and hit .182. It meant the last two AVCA NCAA players of the year (Nikolov in 2022, Garcia in 2021) were both on the court for Lube the last three sets against the CEV Champions League finalists.

The momentum did not carry into the weekend for Lube, which lost to previously winless Vero Volley Monza in three sets on October 23. Nikolov came off the bench and started the last set for Lube, scoring four points on four kills hitting .143 hitting. Garcia came off the bench to serve at the end of the second and third sets. He stayed in after his serving rotation in the third set and completed one attack that was not finished.

Türkiye

Halkbank Ankara left no doubt as to who should be at the top of the standings with a sweep of second-placed Arkas Spor on October 21. Micah Ma’a, who scored from a kill and a block, set Halkbank to a .465 attack efficiency. Nimir Abdel-Azizled had 17 kills and hit .324. Dan McDonnell only scored two points in the middle for Arkas on a kill and an ace while hitting minus .250.

Aaron Russell starts the season in Japan after seven years in Italy/Instagram, a_a_ronrussel

Japan

Aaron Russell played his first professional matches outside of Italy this past weekend. His club, JT Thunders Hiroshima, swept VC Nagano Tridents on October 22 as he ha 14 kills, three aces, and three blocks. In a sweep of the same team on October 23, Russell had seven kills, three blocks, and one ace.

France

Arago de Sète is 1-3 after losing to Toulouse in five on October 20. Kyle Russell was Sète’s leader with 20 kills, three blocks, two aces, and he hit .255.

Saint Nazaire lost for the first time this season with a 3-1 defeat to Tours on October 20. Kyle Ensing hit .181 with 12 kills. Quinn Isaacson scored from a kill, a block, and an ace while setting his team to a .291 hitting percentage.

After suffering its first defeat a week ago, Chaumont climbed back into first place with 3-1 win over Narbonne on October 21. Pat Gasman led Chaumont with eight kills and three blocks and he hit .357. Michael Marshmann came off the bench in the third set and finished in the middle for Chaumont. He had a kill, two blocks, and an ace.

Saint Nazaire moved to the top of the French Ligue A standings after a 3-0 win at home against Arago de Sète on October 15. Isaacson set Saint Nazaire to a .409 hitting percentage in the win. Ensing finished with 12 kills and a block with a .417 attack efficiency. Kyle Russell was the only Arago de Sète player to achieve double-digit scoring with 13 kills with an ace while hitting .241.

Tyler Mitchem came off the bench in the first three sets and started the last set for Plessis-Robinson in a 3-1 defeat to Paris. Mitchem hit .800 on five attack attempts. He finished with four kills, two blocks, and an ace.

Germany

Matt West almost led Helios Grizzlys Giesen to a victory over SWD powervolleys Duren on October 19. He set Giesen to .367 hitting percentage in a five-set defeat to the team that currently sits in second place. West also scored on four kills, three blocks, and an ace. His performance earned him a spot on the Team of the Week in Germany.

Netzhoppers beat VCO Berlin in three sets on October 20. Randy Deweese led the team with 12 kills, two blocks, three aces, and a .400 attack average. Kyler Presho got the start at middle blocker and scored four points. He finished with three kills and an ace while hitting .600.

The Berlin Recycling Volleys remained undefeated with a sweep of WWK Volleys Herrsching. Cody Kessell was used as a substitute for Berlin in the first and third sets, finishing with one kill on one attempt. James Shaw set Herrsching to a .263 hitting percentage and scored five points of his own. He finished with four kills and an ace. Stijn van Tilburg led Herrsching with 11 kills.

Around the world

Brazil: Austin Wilmot started at middle for Itambe Minas in its first match of the Superliga in a sweep of Brasilia Volei on October 24. Wilmot started the match but was replaced in the second se and he finished with one block and one attack error in his only attempt.

Spain: After the heartbreak from the golden set in the CEV Challenge Cup and the rigorous travel schedule, CV Guagas responded with a sweep of Volley Textil Santanderina on October 22. Knigge scored on nine kills with no errors as he hit .692.

Finland: Daniel Wetter had five kills and a block and hit .222 for Perungan Pojat in a sweep of Kyky-Betset on October 19; Wetter scored 17 (14 kills with no errors and three blocks) in a 3-2 win over Vantaa Ducks on October 22; Greg Petty led Akaa-Volley with 15 points (13 kills, two aces, .241) in a 3-1 defeat to Hurrikaani Loimaa …

Netherlands: Ryan Coenen scored 21 (18 kills, two blocks, an ace) and Kyle McKauley scored seven (five kills, a block, an ace) as Lycurgus fell to Draisma Dynamo in five sets on October 22, Lycurgus lost to Simplex SSS on October 23 (no stats available) …

Switzerland: JT Hatch came off the bench and had four kills, hitting .000 for Lausanne in a 3-2 defeat to Volley Schönenwerd on October 22 …

Greece: Corey Chavers and Kiffisias opened the season with a sweep of Aristotelis Sydras on October 22 (no stats published) …

Denmark: Daniel Matheny scored 16 (10 kills, two blocks, four aces, .692) for VK Vestsjælland in a 3-1 win over ASV Elite on October 23; Patrick Ross had 11 kills, three aces and a block, hitting .138, and Max Rosenfeld contributed six kills, a block and an ace while hitting .250 for Nordenskov UIF in a 3-2 loss to Marienlyst-Fortuna Volley on October 24; Seamus McDonagh set Hvidovre Vk to a .348 hitting percentage while contributing six points in a 3-1 defeat to Middlefart VK on October 22 …

Baltic League: Matt Slivinski had nine kills, three blocks and an ace while hitting .261 for Barrus Võru VK in a 3-0 defeat to Jēkabpils Lūši on October 22; Garrett Zolg had three kills, a block and an ace and set his team to .233 hitting percentage; Slivinski then scored 31 points (23 kills, five blocks, three aces, .419) in 3-2 loss to Ezerzeme/DU on October 23; and Zolg scored three points (a kill, two blocks) and set team to .256 attack average.

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