Erik Shoji

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 18, 2024) – The men’s CEV Champions League pool play has finished and four teams with U.S. players are moving on. Plus updates on U.S. Men’s National Team players competing around the world.


In Pool A, Matt Anderson and Türkiye’s Ziraat Bankkard Ankara finished pool play undefeated and advanced straight to the quarterfinals. On Jan. 10, Anderson led all scorers as Ankara beat Belgium’s Knack Roeselare 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 13-15, 25-20, 18-16). Anderson scored 28 points on a match-high 23 kills (.688), a match-high four blocks and one ace.

On Jan. 17, Anderson scored 11 points as Ankara beat Greece’s Olympiacos Piraeus, 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-18). Anderson scored on seven kills, two blocks and two aces.

Poland’s Grupa Azoty Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Koźle, the defending Champions League champion, with libero Erik Shoji and middle blocker David Smith finished second in Pool A at 3-3 after going 1-1 in their last two matches.

On Jan. 11, Kędzierzyn-Koźle fell to Greece’s Olympiacos Piraeus, 3-0 (25-18, 25-29, 25-22). Shoji was credited with 12 receptions, 75 percent positive. Smith was recovering from injury and didn’t play.

Kędzierzyn-Koźle pulled a reverse sweep to beat Belgium’s Knack Roeselare on Jan. 17, 3-2 (22-25, 19-25, 27-25, 25-16, 15-12). Smith started and scored nine points on six kills and three blocks. Shoji had 18 receptions: 44 percent positive. The team advanced by the skin of its teeth.

In the playoffs to get to the quarterfinals, Kędzierzyn-Koźle will face U.S. setter Micah Ma’a and Türkiye’s Halkbank Ankara, which finished second in Pool C at 4-2.

On Jan. 10, Halkbank fell to Italy’s Gas Sales Daiko Piancenza 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-19). Ma’a scored one point with a block.

On Jan. 17, Halkbank beat Portugal’s Sport Lisboa e Benfica 3-2 (25-21, 19-25, 18-25, 25-18, 15-13). Ma’a scored one point with a kill and set his team to a .490 hitting efficiency.

Outside hitter Cody Kessel and Germany’s Berlin Recycling Volleys (3-3) finished third in Pool C and advanced to the playoffs where they will face France’s Tours. On Jan. 10, Berlin took a 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 26-24) win over Sport Lisboa e Benfica. Kessel played as a substitute.

On Jan. 11, Berlin fell to Italy’s Gas Sales Daiko Piacenza 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-19). Kessel played as a substitute.

In Pool B, Poland’s Asseco Resovia Rzeszów with outside hitter T.J. DeFalco finished third in the pool at 3-3 and did not advance. On Jan. 9, Rzeszów fell to France’s Tours VB, 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 27-25). DeFalco started the first two sets and scored five points on four kills and one block.

On Jan. 17, Rzeszów beat Italy’s Trentino Itas, 3-2 (20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 15-9). DeFalco started the last three sets and scored 14 points on 12 kills and two aces.

Middle blocker Matthew Knigge and Germany’s SVG Lüneburg (2-4) finished third in Pool D and did not advance. On Jan. 10, Lüneburg beat Czech Republic’s VK Jihostroj České Budějovice, 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-23). Knigge scored five points on three kills and two blocks. U.S. middle blocker Blake Leeson started the first set. Libero Gage Worsley was credited with 11 receptions, 73 percent positive.

On Jan. 17, Lüneburg fell to Poland’s Jastrzebski Węgiel, 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-19). Knigge scored three points on two kills and one block. Worsley was credited with 13 receptions, 38 percent positive.


Middle blocker Taylor Averill and Projekt Warszawa have advanced to the Challenge Cup semifinals after winning two matches over Romania’s CSA Steaua Bucuresti and outside hitter Brett Wildman.

On Jan. 10, Warszawa beat Bucuresti, 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-21). Averill scored eight points on three kills, a match-high four blocks and one ace. Wildman did not play.

On Jan. 16, Projekt Warszawa won again, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23). Averill did not play, and Wildman played as a substitute.


Asseco Resovia Rzeszów (13-3) and T.J. DeFalco beat Taylor Averill’s Project Warszawa (13-3) on Jan. 13. Neither Averill nor DeFalco played.

Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle (7-9) with David Smith and Erik Shoji fell to PGE GiEK Skra Bełchatów (8-8), 3-0 (25-12, 28-26, 25-22) on Jan. 14. Shoji had five digs and nine receptions. Smith did not play.

Indykpol AZS Olsztyn (7-9) with setter Josh Tuaniga and U.S. Men’s Assistant Coach Javier Weber fell to Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie (13-3), 3-2 (25-17, 21-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-12) on Jan. 13. Tuaniga had four points on a kill, an ace and two blocks. He had eight digs and set the team to a .411 hitting percentage.


Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke and the Panasonic Panthers won their last two matches in sweeps to improve to 17-1.

On Jan. 13, Panasonic beat the Tokyo GreatBears, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17. Jaeschke scored 12 points on 10 kills and two blocks. On Jan. 14, Panasonic again beat the GreatBears, 25-17, 25-17, 25-14. Jaeschke scored 14 points on 11 kills, two blocks and one ace.

Outside hitter Aaron Russell and JT Thunders Hiroshima (13-7) lost two five-set matches to the Suntory SunBirds. On Jan. 13, Hiroshima lost, 21-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 15-13. Russell scored 17 points on 15 kills and two blocks. On Jan. 14, Hiroshima fell, 18-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-11. Russell scored 17 points on 16 kills and one block.


Micah Ma’a and Halkbank (15-0) remained undefeated with a sweep (25-20, 25-14, 27-25) of Spor Toto on Jan. 13. Ma’a scored one point with a kill and set his team to a .400 hitting efficiency.

Matt Anderson scored nine points on seven kills and two aces as Ziraat Bankkart (11-4) fell to Arkas Spor 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-21) on Jan. 13.


Chaumont Volley-Ball 52 (13-3) with middle blockers Patrick Gasman and Michael Marshman beat Saint-Jean d’Illac 3-1 (29-27, 25-16, 20-25, 25-22) on Jan. 13. Marshman scored 13 points on 10 kills and three blocks. Gasman started the fourth set and scored one point with a kill. U.S. setter Joe Worsley led his time to a .509 hitting efficiency. U.S. middle Dan McDonnell started the first three sets and scored seven points on four kills, one block and two aces.

St-Nazaire (10-6) with opposite Kyle Ensing, outside hitter Jordan Ewert and setter Quinn Isaacson fell to Montpellier 3-2 (25-20, 38-36, 22-25, 19-25, 15-8) on Jan. 13. Ewert led all scorers with 27 points on 25 kills (.451) and two blocks.  Ensing added 19 points on 17 kills (.432) and two blocks. Isaacson scored one point with a kill and set the team to a .372 hitting efficiency.


Setter Micah Christenson and Zenit Kazan (14-2) beat Shakhtyor Soligorsk, 3-0 (26-24, 25-14, 25-20) on Jan. 13. Christenson scored four points on two aces, one kill and one block. He set Kazan to a .512 hitting efficiency.


Prisma Taranto Volley (1-12) with middle blocker Jeff Jendryk and opposite Kyle Russell beat U.S. opposite Gabi Garcia and Pallavolo Padova (4-10), 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 15-12) on Jan. 14. Russell scored 22 points on 17 kills (.467), a match-high four aces and one block. Jendryk added six points on six kills. Garcia totaled 17 points on 16 kills and one ace.

Outside hitter Francesco Sani played as a substitute as Rana Verona Volley (7-7) fell to Itas Trentino, 3-1 (25-27, 25-16, 25-16, 25-22).


Cody Kessel played as a substitute and scored four points on four kills as the Berlin Recycling Volleys (13-0) beat WWK Volleys Herrsching 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 38-36) on Jan. 13.

SVG Lüneburg (10-4) and Matthew Knigge fell to Vfb Friedrichshafen 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 15-8). Knigge scored 11 points on six kills, three blocks and two aces. U.S. middle Blake Leeson added nine points on six kills and three blocks. Libero Gage Worsley was credited with 22 receptions, 36 percent positive.


Hypo Tirol (12-0) and libero Tim McIntosh beat UVC Holding Graz 3-2 (23-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-23, 17-15) on Jan. 14. McIntosh was credited with 25 receptions, 45 percent positive.


Hurrikaani Loimaa (13-3) with libero Troy Gooch beat TUTO Volley on Jan. 13, 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 25-17). Gooch was credited with 14 receptions, 64 percent positive. U.S. outside hitter Greg Petty scored 12 points on 12 kills.


Nova Tech Lycurgus HS 1 (10-4) and outside hitter Kyle McCauley beat Simplex SSS HS 1, 3-1 (25-22, 25-27, 25-14, 25-22) on Jan. 14. McCauley scored 12 points on 12 kills. U.S. outside Cole Gillis led all scorers with 25 points on 21 kills, three blocks and one ace. Setter Cole Bogner led his team to a .398 hitting efficiency.


CSA Steaua Bucuresti and outside hitter Brett Wildman beat CS “U” Cluj 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) on Jan. 13. Wildman started the first set but did not score.