Taylor Sander
Taylor Sander

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 16, 2020) – The CEV Champions League has moved into pool play. Instead of teams traveling to their competitors’ cities, four pool teams are gathering in a “bubble” and playing six matches over the course of three days.

On the men’s side, outside hitter Taylor Sander (photo above) made his long-awaited debut with Poland’s PGE Skra Belchatow in its second Pool A match against Belgium’s Lindemans AALST, which Belchatow won 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-26) on Dec. 9. Sander finished with 10 points on eight kills, one block and one ace.

Belchatow finished the first round 2-1, its only loss coming to Poland’s Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle, including middle blocker David Smith.

Kędzierzyn-Koźle beat Belchatow, 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-19) on Dec. 8. Smith scored five points on three kills and two blocks. Kędzierzyn-Koźle finished the first round 3-0.

In Pool C, the Berlin Recycling Volleys, with opposite Ben Patch and outside hitter Cody Kessel, also finished 2-1. They got a victory over Slovenia’s ACH Volley Ljubliana, including U.S. libero Kyle Dagostino, 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-21) on Dec. 8. Patch led Berlin with 16 points on 13 kills and three blocks. Kessel did not play. Dagostino was credited with 23 receptions, 61 percent positive.

Berlin lost to Russia’s Zenit Kazan, 3-0 (25-21, 25-29, 25-18) and beat Poland’s JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel via forfeit due to COVID-19.

In Pool E, U.S. setter Joe Worsley, libero Avery Aylsworth and VfB Friedrichshafen are also 2-1 after the first round of pool play, with wins over Russia’s Lokomotiv Novosibirsk and ČEZ Karlovarsko of the Czech Republic. Friedrichshafen’s loss came to Italy’s Trentino Itas.

In women’s Champions Cup action, Turkey’s Eczacıbaşı VitrA, with opposite Jordan Thompson and middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu, is 3-0 in Pool D after Round 1. On Dec. 10, Eczacıbaşı VitrA beat Dinamo Moscow, 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-14). Ogbogu led all scorers with 18 points on 12 blocks and six kills. Thompson added 12 points on 10 kills, one block and one ace.

On Dec. 8, Eczacıbaşı VitrA came back to beat Germany’s Allianz MTV Stuttgart, 3-2 (22-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21, 15-9).

Thompson scored 23 points on 19 kills, three aces and one block. Ogbogu added 13 points on nine kills, two blocks and two aces. U.S. opposite Krystal Rivers led Stuttgart with 18 points on 17 kills and one block. U.S. middle blocker Jenna Rosenthal was on Stuttegart’s roster but did not play.

Eczacıbaşı VitrA also beat Russia’s Lokomitiv Kaliningrad, 3-0.

Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and Turkey’s Vakifbank Istanbul are 3-0 in Pool C. On Nov. 25, Vakifbank beat France’s ASPTT Mulhouse VB, 25-18, 25-16, 25-18. Bartsch-Hackley scored seven points on six kills and one ace.

Igor Gorgonzola Novara with middle blocker Haleigh Washington and setter Micha Hancock finished the first round at 3-0 in Pool E. In the final match on Nov. 26, Novara beat Poland’s Chemik Police, 27-25, 25-22, 21-25, 21-25, 15-6. Hancock scored five points on four aces and one block. She set Novara to a .312 hitting efficiency. Washington started the first three sets and scored nine points on six kills and three aces.

In Pool B, Italy’s Imoco Conegliano, with U.S. outside hitters Kim Hill and McKenzie Adams, is 3-0 after the first round. In the third match on Dec. 10, Conegliano beat Turkey’s Fenerbahçe Opet Istanbul, 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-19). Hill led all scorers with 12 points on eight kills and four blocks.

In Pool A, outside hitter Megan Courtney and Savino del Bene Scandicci went 3-0, including a win over U.S. setter Jordyn Poulter and Unet e-work Busto Arsizio (1-2 in Round 1). On Dec. 1, Scandicci beat Busto Asizio, 3-2 (25-18, 11-25, 25-19, 23-25, 17-15). Courtney scored 12 points on 11 kills and one block. Poulter scored three points on two blocks and an ace. She set her team to a .271 hitting efficiency.

On Dec. 2, Busto Arsizio got its win over Poland’s Developres SkyRes Rzeszow, 3-2 (25-17, 25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 16-14) on Dec. 2. Poulter scored two points on two blocks and set her team to a .372 hitting efficiency.


U.S. opposite Danielle Cuttino and outside hitter Megan Hodge and their Brazilian team Itambe Minas are in third place in the SuperLiga with a 7-1 record. Most recently, Minas defeated SESC RJ Flamengo, 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-20) on Dec. 11. Cuttino did not play in the match. Hodge scored 11 points on nine kills and two blocks.


The women’s league in Italy took a three-week break to catch up on matches missed due to COVID, although three matches could not be made up due to continuing COVID issues (so not all teams have played 12 matches yet).

Most matches are set to resume on Dec. 16.

Team rankings at the end of the first half

1 Imoco Conegliano (Kim Hill, McKenzie Adams) 12-0
2 Igor Gorgonzola Novara (Micah Hancock, Haleigh Washington) 10-2
4 Savino del Bene Scandicci (Megan Courtney) 8-3
5 Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri ’76 (Rhamat Alhassan and Alexandra Frantti) 7-3
10 Unet e-work Busto Arsizio (Jordyn Poulter) 3-7

The Italian men’s league is in the second half of its season.

U.S. outside hitter T.J. DeFalco and Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia posted some big wins over the past weeks and have shot into third place in the league at 8-4. Most recently, on Dec. 6, Vibo Valentia beat U.S. setter Micah Christenson and Leo Shoes Modena, 25-21, 25-16, 25-18. DeFalco scored 12 points on nine kills and three aces. Christenson did not score and set his team to a .225 hitting efficiency. Modena is in sixth place in the league at 7-7.

U.S. outside hitter Aaron Russell and Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza (7-6) are in fourth place in the league. On Dec. 13, Piacenza beat Top Volley Cisterna, 25-21, 25-19, 25-17. Russell scored 14 points on 13 kills and one ace. U.S. opposite James Shaw, who was also on Piacenza’s roster, has left the team.

Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke and NBV Verona (4-7) are in ninth place. On Dec. 6, Verona fell to Itas Trentino, 3-2 (23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-20, 15-10). Jaeschke scored 11 points on 10 kills and one ace.

Setter Kawika Shoji and Kioene Padova (3-10) are in 10th place. On Dec. 14, Padova fell to Sir Safety Perugia, 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-15). Shoji scored four points on two kills and two blocks and set his team to a .318 hitting efficiency.


Vakifbank Istanbul (20-1) with outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley leads the league. On Dec. 13, Vakifbank beat Kuzeyboru, with U.S. middle blocker Annie Mitchem, 3-1 (25-16, 22-25, 25-13, 25-12). Bartsch-Hackley scored 18 points on 16 kills, one block and one ace. Mitchem totaled 16 points on 16 kills.

Türk Hava Yolları (17-5) with setter Lauren Carlini and outside hitter Madi Kingdon Rishel (17-5) is in third place. On Dec. 12, Türk Hava Yolları beat Sistem9 Yeşilyurt, 3-2 (24-26, 25-19, 24-26, 25-21, 15-12. Kingdon started the first two sets and scored nine points on nine kills. Carlini scored five points on four kills and an ace. She set her team to a .316 hitting efficiency.

Nilüfer Bld. (15-6) with outside hitter Sarah Wilhite Parsons sits in fourth place. On Dec. 13, Nilüfer Bld. beat PTT, 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-19). Parsons led all scorers with 16 points on 13 kills, one block and two aces.

Eczacıbaşı VitrA (13-4) with Ogbogu and Thompson is in seventh place. On Dec. 5, Eczacıbaşı VitrA beat PTT, 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-15). Thompson scored 14 points on nine kills, three aces and two blocks. Ogbogu finished with seven points on seven kills.

U.S. middle blocker Rachael Adams has left Aydin B.Sehir Bld. and is training in the United States.


U.S. middle blocker David Smith and Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle (12-0) lead the league. On Dec. 13, Kędzierzyn-Koźle beat Jastrzębski Węgiel, 3-1 (25-23. 27-25, 23-25, 25-22). Smith scored 10 points on nine kills and one block.

Outside hitter Garrett Muagututia and Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie (8-6) are in third place. On Dec. 15, Zawiercie beat Cuprum Lubin, 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-19). Muagututia scored 10 points on eight kills and two aces.

Setter Josh Tuaniga and Ślepsk Malow Suwałki (8-7) are in sixth place. On Dec. 14, Suwałki beat middle blocker Jeff Jendryk and Asseco Resovia Rzeszów, 3-1 (25-12, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23). Tuaniga scored two points on two aces and set his team to a .422 hitting efficiency. Jendryk started the final two sets and scored 10 points on eight kills, one block and one ace. Resovia Rzeszów (7-5) is in eighth place.

Outside hitter Brenden Sander and Cerrad Enea Czarni Radom (6-9) are in ninth place. On Dec. 11, Radom beat Stal Nysa, 3-1 (25-19, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23). Sander finished with 17 points on 15 kills, one block and one ace.


Jordan Larson and Shanghai Guangming Youbei are playing Kelsey Robinson and Guangdong Evergrande for the bronze medal in the finals of China’s women’s league.

In the first match of the series on Dec. 15, Shanghai beat Guangdong, 3-0 (25-19, 25-. 18, 25-15). Larson led all scorers with 16 points. Robinson did not play due to a “foot injury.”


Japan’s women’s V League played its last matches for December and will start again in January.

Opposite Annie Drews and JT Marvelous (7-2) are in second place. In its final match of 2020 on Dec. 6, JT Marvelous beat the Okayama Seagulls, 3-0 (34-32, 25-9, 25-17). Drews led all scorers with 21 points on 21 kills.

Opposite Kathryn Plummer and the Denso Airybees (9-4) are in fourth place. On Dec. 6, they beat outside hitter Simone Lee and the Kurobe Aqua Fairies, 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 25-18). Plummer led all scorers with 32 points on 27 kills, four blocks and one ace. Lee was right behind her with 31 points on 25 kills, five blocks and one ace. Kurobe (4-9) is in ninth place.

Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson and Hisamitsu Springs (6-7) are in sixth place. On Dec. 6, Hisamitsu beat the Saitama Ageo Medics, 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20). Gunderson scored 15 points on 10 kills and five blocks.

Middle blocker Hannah Tapp and Hitachi Rivale (4-9) are in 10th place. On Dec. 6, Hitachi Rivale fell to the league-leading Toray Arrows, 3-1 (24-26, 25-15, 25-22, 25-14). Tapp scored 14 points on 10 kills and for blocks.


Libero Erik Shoji and Fakel Novy Urengoy (6-5) are in fifth place in the Russian league. On Dec. 12, Urengoy fell to Lokomotiv Belogorie, 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-23). Shoji was credited with 16 receptions, 69 percent positive.


Middle blocker Taylor Averill and Cannes (11-2) lead the French league. On Dec. 12, Cannes beat Paris, 3-2 (23-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-23, 15-12). Averill scored 14 points on 12 kills and three blocks. Averill is leading the league in blocks with 43 in 13 matches. He also leads in kill percentage at 68%.

Setter Micah Ma’a and Poitiers (5-6) are in eighth place. On Dec. 12, Poitiers beat Narbonne, 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 32-30, 25-18). Ma’a scored four points on two kills, one block and one ace. He set his team to a .460 hitting efficiency.

Middle blocker Dan McDonnell and Chaumont are in ninth place. On Dec. 12, Chaumont beat Cambri, 3-2 (25-22, 25-17, 19-25, 20-25, 15-13). McDonnell was named the match MVP as he finished with 15 points on eight kills, four blocks and three aces.


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