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

When Aleksander Nikolov made the decision this summer to leave Long Beach State after his freshman season to play professional volleyball in Europe, it was a surprising but not an unexpected move. After all, the 2022 AVCA Division I-II Player of the Year was a starting outside hitter for the Bulgarian national team in the Volleyball Nations League.

He signed with Lube Civitanova, the defending Italian SuperLega champions. The club had lost Osmany Juantorena, and needed a reinforcement on the left side. It was expected Nikolov would be behind Marlon Yant, a Cuban outside hitter who had a breakout season during Lube’s 2022 championship run.

An injury to Yant led to a few experimental lineups, including putting Ivan Zaytsev, a long-time opposite for the Italian national team, in the outside hitter role. However, in the last three matches, both Garcia and Nikolov have found themselves in the starting lineup. That included a league match against unbeaten Sir Safety Perugia on October 26, the SuperCoppa semifinals against Modena on October 31, and the SuperCoppa finals against Perugia again on November 1.

What makes it noteworthy is that two of the past three AVCA Division I-II players of the year have been in the starting lineup of one of Europe’s most prestigious clubs. Garcia won the award in 2020 after his junior season at BYU.

Lube fell in five sets to Perugia in the SuperCoppa final. It was the first time that Perugia had been taken to five sets all year.

Gabi Garcia was Lube Civitanova’s leading scorer in the SuperCoppa finals against Perugia/legavolley.it

Garcia scored 21 points in the final on 19 kills (.333), a block and an ace. Nikolov started the first two sets but was used as a substitute in the last three. He finished with four points on a kill (hitting minus .500) and three aces. Garcia led Lube in the semifinals against Modena as well, finishing with 11 kills (.292), three aces, and a block. Nikolov added 12 kills (.571) and two aces.

CEV Cup

WWK Volleys Herrsching needed to win in three or four sets against Lindaren Volley Amriswil on October 26 to qualify directly to the next round. A win in five would require a golden set to decide who progressed. James Shaw led Herrsching to 25-22 and 25-23 wins. Amriswil staved off defeat by taking the next two sets 25-23 and 27-25. The fifth set went to Herrsching 15-6, but Amriswil prevailed 15-11 in the golden set to advance to the next round. Shaw set Herrsching to a .272 hitting percentage while finishing with two kills, two blocks, and an ace.

Poland

Jastrzębski Węgiel defeated ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle 24-26, 25-23, 18-25, 25-20, 15-13 on October 26 to win the Polish Super Cup for the second straight year. David Smith finished the match with 13 points in the middle on seven kills (.583) and a match-high six blocks. Kawika Shoji registered 48 percent positive passes, 30 percent perfect passes and four digs.

TJ DeFalco scored nine in a 25-21, 25-20, 25-16 win for Asseco Resovia Rzeszów over Cerrad Czarni Radom on October 29. DeFalco contributed eight kills (.400) and a block. He led Resovia with 45 percent perfect passes and had five digs.

Josh Tuaniga set Indykpol AZS Olsztyn to a .571 attack average in a 25-17, 25-15, 25-18 win over Jake Hanes and BBTS Bielsko-Biała on October 29. Tuaniga also chipped in a block and a kill. Taylor Averill had three kills (.500), three blocks, and two aces. Hanes scored 10 points on 10 kills (.238) in the defeat.

ZAKSA rebounded from its Super Cup defeat with a 25-19, 25-18, 25-20 victory at home against Trefl Gdańsk on October 30. Smith scored on two kills (.500), two aces, and a block. Shoji led with 83 percent positive passes, 50 percent perfect passes, and four digs.

LUK Lublin was not able to gets its first win of the season on October 30 when it lost 21-25, 15-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-11 to Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie. Jeff Jendryk was a bright spot for Lublin, scoring 13 points in the middle on 13 kills (.545) and three blocks. Dustin Watten finished with 44 percent positive and 12 percent perfect passes.

Russia

Matt Anderson arrived in Russia, and was on the roster for first-place Zenit St. Petersburg when it faced Micah Christenson and Zenit Kazan on October 29. But Anderson did not play in the five-set thriller that saw St. Petersburg prevail 15-13 in the tiebreak. Christenson was trying to complete the reverse sweep after dropping the first two sets 21-25 and 22-25. Kazan took the next two 27-25 and 25-23. Christenson set Kazan to a .294 hitting percentage while scoring from a block and an ace. Victor Poletaev has remained healthy through the first six matches of the season and has been putting up the best performances of his career for St. Petersburg. The left-handed opposite led the match with 29 kills (.510) and three blocks.

Italy

Before competing in the aforementioned SuperCoppa, Lube Civitanova tried to avoid its second consecutive defeat last week, but had to face unbeaten Sir Safety Perugia on October 26. Lube went with a young lineup, starting Garcia and Nikolov. Perugia won 20-25, 27-25, 25-18, 25-19. Garcia led Lube with 11 kills and four aces and hit .207. Nikolov contributed nine kills (.120), two blocks, and three aces. Kamil Semeniuk led with 12 kills (.478), three blocks, and three aces for Perugia.

Türkiye

Micah Ma’a and Nimir Abdel Aziz both got significant rest in the Halkbank Ankara’s 25-18, 25-18, 25-23 victory over Tokat Plevne on October 30. After being used as a serving sub the first two sets (though he stayed on the court to finish the second set as setter), he started the third set and led Halkbank to a .296 hitting percentage. Ma’a also had a kill.

Arkas Spor dropped its second consecutive match by way of a 24-26, 25-20, 25-21, 17-25, 16-14 loss to Ziraat Bankasi on October 30. Dan MacDonnell had four kills (.571), one ace, and one kill.

France

Arago de Sète got back into the win column with a 21-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-17, 15-10 reverse sweep over Nice on October 27. Kyle Russell was again Sète’s leading scorer with 28 points, finishing with match highs of 23 kills (.405) and five aces.

Saint Nazaire rebounded from a loss the previous week with a 25-23, 24-26, 21-25, 25-22, 19-17 win over Toulouse on October 27. Quinn Isaacson set Saint Nazaire to a .270 hitting percentage while also contributing a block. Kyle Ensing added eight kills (.069), one block and an ace.

Tyler Mitchem got the start in the middle for Plessis Robinson in a 25-20, 28-26, 25-22 defeat to Montpellier on October 29. Mitchem scored three points on three kills (.400).

Chaumont jumped back to the top of the table in the French Ligue A after a 25-23, 43-41, 18-25, 25-14 victory over Cambrai on October 29. Pat Gasman scored 10 points on nine kills (.615) and an ace. Mike Marshman was used as a serving substitute in the third set against his former club and produced one ace on two service attempts. Marshman helped Cambrai get promoted to Ligue A during the 2020-2021 season, and stayed with the club last year before signing with Chaumont.

Germany

Matt West led Helios Grizzlys Giesen to a 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 win over VCO Berlin on October 26. He set the team to a .415 hitting percentage while scoring on a block and a kill.

In the other October 26 game in Germany, Berlin Recycling Volleys beat SVG Lüneburg 27-25, 25-27, 25-19, 31-29. Lüneburg was up 24-21 in the fourth set, but was unable to close it out. Cody Kessell was used as a substitute in the first two sets, and started the last two. He finished with 1nine kills (.538) and two kills. Jordan Ewert led Lüneburgwith 19 points on 16 kills (.231) and three aces. Colton Cowell produced 10 kills (.304) and two aces. Cowell also received a match-high 49 serves with 47 percent being rated as positive and 14 percent being perfect. Gage Worsley passed 11 serves with 27 percent being positive. Joe Worsley set Lüneburg to a .252 attack average to go with two kills and an ace.

Herrsching fell to VfB Friedrichshafen in straight sets 25-22, 25-21, 25-18 on October 29. Shaw scored on two kills while setting the team to a .227 hitting percentage. Stijn van Tilburg scored on five kills (.000).

SVG Lüneburg responded from a midweek defeat with a 25-20, 25-21, 25-13 win over TSV Haching Munich on October 30. Ewert led the match with nine six kills (.286) and three aces. Gage Worsley put in a 55 and 27 percent passing performance. Joe Worsley set Lüneburg to a .412 attack average.

Berlin Recycling Volleys remained unbeaten with a 29-27, 25-21, 21-25, 25-22 victory over Netzhoppers K.W. Bestensee on October 30. Kessell was used as a substitute in all four sets but did not score. Randy Deweese led the Netzhoppers with 16 points on 14 kills (.081) and two aces. Max Chamberlain scored 14 points in the middle from 10 kills (.643), two blocks, and two aces. His performance landed him on the Team of the Week in Germany. Kyle Presho came off the bench in the third set and finished the match with five kills (.571).

Finland

It was a busy week for Daniel Wetter and Perungan Pojat. He had seven kills (.538) and three blocks in a 25-21, 16-25, 25-19, 25-23 loss to Kokkolan Tiikerit on October 26. That was followed up with 19 points on 12 kills (.450), five blocks, and two aces in a 28-26, 20-25, 27-25, 22-25, 15-10 victory over Hurrikaani Loimaa on October 29. Wetter scored 12 the next day in a 25-20, 25-19, 25-21 defeat to TUTO Volley on nine kills (.400), two blocks, and an ace.

Michael Michelau and Savo Volley split two matches. The club earned a 22-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23 win over TUTO VOlley on October 28. Michelau produced 12 kills (.167), two blocks, and an ace. He scored on 13 kills (.409) and two blocks in a 25-20, 25-22, 18-25, 25-20 loss to unbeaten Raison Loimu on October 29.

Greg Petty had an uncharacteristically rough outing for Akaa-Volley in a 25-23, 25-19, 27-25 win over Kokkolan Tiikerit on October 29. Petty scored five points on three kills (-.214), one block, and one ace.

Around the world

Japan: Aaron Russell and JT Thunders Hiroshima remained undefeated after winning twice this past weekend. Russell had eight kills, three aces, and two blocks in a 25-23, 25-23, 25-22 over Oita Miyoshi on October 29. He followed up that performance with a sweep of the same team on October 30. He produced on 13 kills, three blocks, and three aces in a 25-21, 25-16, 25-16 win …Brazil: Austin Wilmot was used as a serving sub in the first and third sets for Itambe Minas in its 30-32, 25-22, 25-27, 29-27, 15-6 win over Vedacit Volei Guarulhos on October 29. He completed three serves with no aces and no errors … Spain: Matt Knigge nine kills with no attack errors and three blocks against his old club in a CV Guaguas victory over Arenal Emeve on October 30 … Switzerland: JT Hatch came off the bench and had three kills (.400) for Lausanne in a 25-20, 25-23, 25-23 defeat to Chênois Genève on October 29. … Netherlands: Lycurgus defeated NUmidia VC Limax in five sets on October 30 behind 23 points from Ryan Coenen. He scored on 19 kills, two blocks, and two aces. Kyle McCauley contributed 12 kills, five aces, and a block … Greece: Corey Chavers helped A.O.P. Kifisias earn a 25-22, 25-23, 25-16 win against OFI Crete on October 29. with 10 kills (.388), two blocks, and two aces …

Czech Republic: Tommy Carmody hit 1.000 on his way to four kills and two aces as his Odolena Voda squad defeated Brno 25-18, 25-23, 25-13 on October 29 … Denmark: Max Rosenfeld finished with five kills (.333) and three blocks in the middle for Nordenskov UIF on October 29 in a 25-21, 25-22, 19-25, 25-17 win over Amager VK … Baltic League: Matt Slivinski remained the league’s second-leading scorer at 5.33 points per set after he put up 25 for Barrus Võru VK in a 25-21, 25-10, 22-25, 25-20 win against Parnu VK on October 29. Slivinski finished with 21 kills (.571) and four aces. Garrett Zolg set the team to a .295 hitting percentage and had two kills.

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