June 7, 2023

International men: CEV updates; Penrose goes off; FIVB Club Worlds breakdown

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 protected]

In this report, we have the CEV Champions League, CEV Cup, CEV Challenge Cup, and a review of the happenings around the world.

CEV Champions League

It’s halfway through the tournament and Pool B is as tight as possible after each team has played each other once. Micah Ma’a and Halkbank Ankara are in second place but needed five sets to defeat Hebar Pazardzhik. Ma’ set the team to a .427 hitting percentage in addition to scoring on two blocks and a match-high four ace.

The Berlin Recycling Volleys pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament thus far with a 25-21, 20-25, 29-27, 27-25 win over Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie of Poland. Cody Kessel was used as a substitute in each set but the first but did not score a point for Berlin, which was led by Marek Sotola’s 23 points. Uros Kovacevic of Zaweiercie led the match with 26 points.

Ankara and Berlin both have five points after three matches and both have the same record and sets ratio, though Ankara holds a better points ratio by .0077 or three points. Zawiercie sits at the top of the pool with six points and Hebar has earned two points after three losses.

Lube Civitanova needed four sets to defeat Knack Roeselare of Belgium. Aleksandar Nokolove started the first three sets and had 12 kills, hitting .588. Gabi Garcia was used as a serving substitute in the second and third sets, scoring on two aces. Lube sits in first place in Pool C with a 3-0 record and eight points.

ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle, still without Dave Smith, dropped a four-set decision to Trentino in a rematch of the last two Champions League finals. Erik Shoji passed 62 percent positively and 15 percent perfectly. Alessandro Michieletto of Trentino and Łukasz Kaczmarek of ZAKSA both scored 21 points. The victory puts Trentino on top of Pool C with a 3-0 record and nine points. ZAKSA fell to second place in the group with a 2-1 record and six points.


SVG Lüneburg jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Lycurcus and hung on to win 25-15, 25-16. 18-25, 21-25, 15-12 in a match in which no stats were published.

Dan McDonnell and Arkas Spor ran into a brick wall when they faced Valsa Group Modena last week. McDonnell had three kills, two blocks, and one ace. Earvin N’Gapeth had just six point sand hit .063, while Adis Lagumszija led with 14 kills (.413), two aces, and a block.

Michael Michelau scored 14 points for Savo Volley in a 25-27. 25-21. 25-15. 25-10 loss to C.S. Arcada Galati of Romania. Michelau finished with 12 kills and two blocks. Dave Kisiel started the third set and scored on two kills (.000) and a block.

CEV Challenge Cup

Maccabi Tel-Aviv took a step towards the quarterfinals with a 25-27. 25-22. 25-17, 32-30 win over PAOK Thessaloniki of Greece. Josh Ayzenburg posted a 47 and 31 percent passing performance.

Dennis Del Valle passed 61 percent of his receptions positively and 50 percent perfectly in a 25-21, 25-14, 20-25, 25-19 win for A.J. Fonte Bastardo over SC Duo Tartu of Estonia. Ryan Manoogian was used as a defensive substitute in the first set for Bastardo.

USA in PlusLigi


The team of the week in the PlusLiga includes TJ DeFalco from Long Beach State, Taylor Averill of Hawaii and Nicolas Szerszen of Ohio State.

Asseco Resovia Rzeszów inched closer to first place in the PlusLiga with a 25-22. 25-18, 25-14 win over Stal Nysa as DeFlaco led had 13 kills (.478), four blocks and two aces in a performance that earned him the MVP. Resovia and league-leading Jastrzębski Węgiel are now both at 11-2, but Jastrzębski holds a two-point advantage.

Jake Hanes scored 12 points for BBTS Bielsko-Biała in a 25-20, 25-16, 25-15 defeat to Projekt Warszawa. He had 22 kills (.381) in a 25-21, 33-31, 25-16 loss to Barkom Każany Lyiv on Wednesday.

LUK Lublin defeated Ślepsk Malow Suwałki 22-25, 25-23, 25-17, 20-25, 15-10 last week. Jeff Jendryk finished with seven kills (.455), two blocks, and one ace. Dustin Watten posted a 50 percent positive and 20 percent perfect passing performance on the night. Nicolas Szerszen tied a match-high of 25 points with 21 kills (.455), two blocks, and a pair of aces.

Lublin came back Wednesday and beat Cuprum Lubin 25-20, 25-17, 25-23. Jendryk finished with four kills (.571) and a block. Szerszen contributed 10 kills (.500), two aces and a block. Watten passed 44 percent positive and 22 percent perfect.

Indykpol AZS Olsztyn earned a 26-24, 25-21, 25-16 sweep over Cuprum Lubin. Taylor Averill hit 1.000 on his way to eight kills and five blocks. Josh Tuaniga set Olsztyn to a .382 hitting percentage and had a block.

Tuaniga led Olsztyn to an impressive win over PGE Skra Bełchatów on Wednesday. He set the team to a .341 hitting percentage while adding a block and an ace. Averill registered an eight-kill (.500), two-block, and two-ace performance in the 22-25, 25-15, 27-25, 27-25 victory.

Cerrad Czarni Radom, which signed Matt West earlier in the week, took ZAKSA to five sets before losing 22-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 15-11. Radom fired its coach and appointed setter Pawel Wolicki as head coach before bringing on West, who didn’t play. Shoji passed 48 percent positively and 26 percent perfectly in the win.


Garcia sat the bench again for Lube in its latest SuperLega match against Allianz Milano but came in for Ivan Zaytsev in the second set and finished. Garcia had nine kills (.615) and an ace. With Garcia replacing an Italian player, and another Italian player needed to be introduced into the lineup. Mattia Bottolo came on for Marlon Yant at the same time as Garcia and hit .833 from the outside. Bottolo finished with 11 kills.

Davide Gardini, the Italian national who played at BYU, had three kills (.500) as a substitute in the first and third sets for Pallavolo Padova in a 25-15, 25-16, 25-21 defeat to Trentino.

Around the globe

Russia: Matt Anderson led Zenit Saint Petersburg to a 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 victory over Kuzbass Kemerovo. Anderson, who played the match at opposite, hit .400 on his way to 15 kills and three aces. His club is still undefeated and first place in the Russian Super League.

Brazil: Austin Wilmot was used as a service substitute in the third and fourth sets for Itambe Minas in a 25-22, 25-21, 23-25, 25-23 defeat at the hands of APAN/Eleva. He competed two serves with no aces or errors.

Türkiye: Halkbank Ankara fell into second place behind Ziraat Bakasi after needing five sets to defeat Fenerbahce. Ma’a started the first three sets and set Halkbank to a .355 attack average in those first three sets. He had a kill and a block in the 22-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-21, 15-10 victory. As usual, Nimir Abdel-Aziz led with 19 kills (.375) and three aces.

Arkas Spor beat Tursad 25-23, 25-19, 25-20. McDonnell put away nine kills (.667) to go along with two blocks and an ace.

Japan: Jalen Penrose scored a whopping 35 points in a 25-21, 25-18, 22-25, 25-20 victory for Safilva Hokkaido over Fujitso Kawasaki on Saturday on 33 kills and two blocks. The next day scored 32 points on 28 kills, two blocks and two aces in a 25-22, 20-25, 25-23, 30-25, 17-15 defeat to Aisin Tilmare.

China: Thomas Jaeschke and Max Holt played for Beijing for the first time last week. Jaeschke had 13 kills (.375) and three aces. Holt had five kills (.375), two blocks, and one ace in a 26-28, 26-24, 26-24, 25-18 win over Zhejiang.

The next day, Jaeschke had seven kills (.538), three aces and a block. Holt finished with two kills and two aces as Beijing defeated Sichuan 25-16, 25-14, 25-11.

The American duo got the next match off, but were back on the court to play their third match in four days. Holt had five aces, seven kills (.778) and two blocks. Jaeschke had 14 kills (.875), three aces and a block in a 25-18, 25-13, 23-25, 25-18 win over Guangdong.

France: Saint Nazaire dropped a 25-18, 25-23, 33-35, 21-25, 15-12 decision to Parisas Kyle Ensing had 17 kills and an ace but hit .163 with 10 errors. Quinn Isaacson set the team to .286 hitting percentage while contributing a kill, an ace and three blocks.

Chaumont fell into second place with a 25-21, 25-20, 25-21 defeat to Nantes Rezé. Pat Gasman led Chaumont with 11 kills (.846), three aces and an block. Michael Marshman started the second and third sets, scoring on four kills (.800) and three blocks.

Tyler Mitchem played the whole match in the middle for Plessis Robinson but did not score in a 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 loss to Tours. He hit minus .250.

Germany: Lüneburg earned a big 25-22, 20-25, 25-21, 25-23 victory at SWD powervolleys Duren. Ewert led Lüneburg again with 17 kills and two blocks. Cowell had nine kills, an ace and two blocks. He also had an impressive performance in serve receive with a match-high 74 percent positive passes. Joe Worsley set Lüneburg to a .260 hitting percentage while scoring from a kill, an ace, and a block. Gage Worsley posted a 38 percent positive and 5 percent perfect passing average, but his defense earned him the match’s MVP award.

Netzhoppers KW Bestensee defeated TSV Haching Munich 25-16, 25-16, 21-25, 24-26, 15-11. Ray Barsemian led with 17 kills (.354) and two blocks. Max Chamberlain scored on seven kills (.750), three blocks, and three aces from the middle. Randy Deweese was used as a substitute in the third and fourth sets and had four kills (.500).

Kessel was a substitute in the first set for Berin in a 25-22, 25-19, 25-17 sweep of WWk Volleys Herrsching but did not score for the 9-0, league-leader. James Shaw did not play for Herrsching.

Spain: CV Guagas remained undefeated after beating Unicaja Costa de Almeria 25-20, 28-30, 25-20, 25-22. Matt Knigge led with 15 kills (.480) to go with four blocks. Brandon Rattray, coming off of an injury, scored in the fourth set on six kills and a block.

Finland: Akaa-Volley fell to VaLePa 25-16, 25-20, 25-21. Greg Petty finished with eight kills (.467) and two aces in the loss.

David Kisiel led Savo Volley with 15 kills, three blocks, and two aces in a 14-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-11 defeat to Kokkolan Tiikerit. Michael Michelau scored on 13 kills and a match-high four aces.

Switzerland: JT Hatch came off the bench in the third set for Lausanne UC in a 25-23, 25-23, 25-15 defeat to TSV Jona Volleyball. Hatch finished with two kills on two attempts and passed 78 percent positively.

Czech Republic: After a week off, Tommy Carmody and Odolena Voda were back in action last week. Carmody scored on three kills (1.000) in a 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-17 loss to VK Lvi Praha. Odolena Voda fell to 7-5 with 21 points and is in sixth place.

Israel: Josh Ayzenburg and Sam Burgi moved into first place with Maccabi Tel Aviv after a 25-22, 25-19, 25-17 win over VC Eilaboun. No stats were available.

Andy Koyfman scored five points for Maccabi Hod HaSharon in a 28-26, 25-17, 25-22 win over Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Ata. He finished with four kills (.800) and a block.

Denmark: Daniel Matheney scored 15 points in the middle for VK Vestsjælland in a 24-26, 25-19, 25-18, 28-26 win over Seamus McDonaghl and Hvidovre VK. Methany got it done from all areas of the court, with 10 kills (.500), three blocks, and two aces. McDonagh had five kills and a block in addition to setting Hvidovre to a .200 hitting percentage in the loss.

Methany followed it up with 13 points in a straight-sets victory over Amager VK on 10 kills (.714) and two blocks.

Patrick Ross registered a five-kill, two-block, one-ace performance for Nordenskov UIF in a 25-19, 25-16, 25-20 win over Middelfart VK.  Chris Hall finished with two kills (.000) in the loss.

Baltic League: Barrus Võru VK dropped a 25-20, 25-14, 25-22 match to Selver/TalTech. Matt Slivinski scored on seven kills and three aces. Garrett Zolg set the team to a .173 attack average while also contributing a block.

FIVB Club World Championships

The FIVB Club World Championships started Wednesday in Betim, Brazil, with Austin Wilmot from Itambe Minas being the lone American participating.

It is not a tournament which has seen a great deal of American success. Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons won with Ravenna in 1991 when Kiraly was MVP.

Matt Anderson won the title with Zenit Kazan in 2017. Aaron Russell won the championship with Trentino the next year and was also MVP.

Aaron Russell was the MVP of the World Club Championships when we won the tile with Trentino in 2018/FIVB photo

The FIVB Club World Championships is now essentially a tournament between European and South American teams. In theory, the tournament would include the hosts, winners of each continental championship from the previous year, and possibly two wild cards. But there has not been a representative from Africa since 2016, and there hasn’t been a representative from the NORCECA since 2015 when Captitanes de Arecibo of Puerto Rico competed.

Without there being a true NORCECA club championship, the representative at this tournament has been a random sampling of Puerto Rican teams, a Dominican team, a Mexican team, a Canadian university team (Trinity Western University in 2011), and a men’s adult rec club from the United States (Team Paul Mitchell in 2011).

The tournament as a whole is relatively young. There were four editions of the competition that took place from 1989-1992. It was held in Parma, Milan, Sao Paulo, and Treviso respectively. The FIVB ceased the tournament until 2009. It was held in Doha, Qatar for the next four years with Trentino winning each of those years. The FIVB has moved it to Betim, Brazil for every year since 2013 with the exceptions of 2017 and 2018 when it was held in various cities in Poland.

The move to Brazil has meant great success for Sada Cruzeiro. The Brazilian has won the title four times, and all of them have come when it has been the host team in Betim. Belogorie Belgorod of Russia (2014) and Lube Civitanova (2019) are the only teams from other than Sada Cruzeiro to win the crown when it is held in Betim. Italian clubs have won the tournament nine out of 10 times that it wasn’t held in Betim. Zenit Kazan won that tenth tournament outside of Betim in 2017.

There hasn’t been a full eight teams making up the tournament field since 2018. The timing of the tournament, the intense demands of travel to South America, and the full calendar of matches has made it a less-than-attractive prospect for teams outside of Brazil.

ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle of Poland, which has qualified the last two seasons as winners of the CEV European Champions League, turned down a spot in the championship both years due to the reasons mentioned above. This year’s field is also without a NORCECA, or African representative. Instead the tournament consists of two continental champions, Sada Cruzeiro (who actually qualified as the hosts) and Paykan Club of Iran. Itas Trentino, five-time winners of the title, qualified as the runners-up from Europe. The FIVB also admitted the second and third-placed teams from South America: Itambe Minas and Volei Renata of Brazil. Sir Safety Perugia, a team that tied for third place in the CEV Champions League, earned an entry by way of a wild card.

The addition of Perugia does make a tremendous amount of sense. It is the only club in the competition with a perfect record across all competitions. Perugia also made a bid to host the tournament in Italy this year, and it looked as if it was a done deal before the FIVB announced it would be in Brazil yet again. Club President Gino Sirci has made his ambitions known to make the Perugia tha most dominant club in the world, spending large amounts of money to bring in Wilfredo Leon, Kamil Rychlicki, Simone Gianelli, and Kamil Semeniuk.

The field is broken up into two pools of three. Pool A consists of Sada Cruzeiro, Volei Renata, and Perugia. Pool B has Itambe Minas, Paykan, and Trentino. We’ll have a report in our next international men’s roundup.