Breaking Down The Americans In The Men's CEV Champions League

By our count, there are 16 American athletes currently competing in the CEV Men’s Champions League, a prestigious eight-month-long tournament, which is streaming live on FloVolleyball.

These Americans, many of whose names you’ll recognize from the rosters of your favorite college programs and Team USA, compete for teams from all over Europe. In the past, you’d have to wait until the national team season starts up again next summer to see them in action, but thanks to the partnership between the CEV and FloVolleyball, you can keep up with your favorite players year-round.

Here is the list of men’s Champions League teams featuring American athletes. To see the schedule of matches find out when you can see your favorite players in action, visit the CEV Men’s Champions League event page.

Azimut Modena | Modena, Italy

The roster of Azimut Modena of Italy’s SuperLega features three Americans this season. 

Team USA middle Max Holt, who was a member of the bronze-medal-winning 2016 Olympic team, rejoins the Modena squad for his third consecutive club season, while setter Jennings Franciskovic, a First Team All-American at the University of Hawaii, is starting his second year on the team. Challenging Franciskovic for playing time will be Micah Christenson, the 6-6 star setter of the U.S. men’s senior national team, who makes his Azimut debut this fall after playing for Volley Lube of SuperLega for the past three seasons.

Not only does Modena’s roster include a trio of American all-stars, it also features the top player of the Italian national team, Ivan Zaytsev, who is known as the most ferocious server in the world. 

Berlin Recycling Volleys | Berlin, Germany

Tune into a Berlin Recycling Volleys match, and you’ll get a four-for-one deal. National teamers libero Dustin Watten, middle Jeff Jendryk, and opposite Ben Patch are all joining Germany’s top team for the first time this fall after coming for Team USA at the Volleyball Nations League and World Championships this summer. 

Berlin’s roster also includes outside hitter Kyle Russell in his second season with the club, and third season competing in the German league. Russell played for Team USA at the Pan American Cup over the summer and spent his collegiate career at UC Irvine, where he won an NCAA national championship in 2013.

Watten spent the last two years playing for Cerrad Czarni Radom in Poland; Jendryk, who just graduated from Loyola University in May, kicks off his debut professional season in Berlin; and Patch comes to the Recycling Volleys after spending the 2017-18 on the roster of Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia in the Italian Serie A. 

Chaumont VB 52 HM | Chaumont, France

Chaumont VB, one of just two French teams competing in the 2019 CEV Men’s Champions League, is temporary home to Americans Michael Saeta and Taylor Averill. 

The French club welcomes setter Saeta, a Second Team All-American at UC Irvine in 2017, back for a second season. Averill, a Hawaii grad, joins Saeta in Chaumont after spending three years in the Italian league (two seasons with Pallavolo Padova and one with PowerVolley Milano) and playing a significant role on the national team this summer, both at VNL and Worlds. 

Already this duo has made a major impact for Chaumont, with Saeta leading the team in aces its second-round meeting with CV Teruel and Averill contributing a match-high five blocks in the five-set loss. This pair of Americans and their French squad advances to the third round after sweeping CV Teruel in the second meeting between the two teams in second-round action

Cucine Lube Civitanova | Civitanova Marche, Italy

Brenden Sander, the younger of the U.S. men’s national team’s dynamic duo of Sander brothers, is competing this fall for Cucine Lube Civitanova, the team his brother Taylor played for last year. 

Brenden Sander joined Volley Lube in September to fill a hole in the roster left by injured Canadian outside hitter Ryley Barnes. Sander had originally signed with BluVolley Verona back in May, but the two teams were able to work out a deal and transfer the former BYU All-American to Civitanova.

Knack Roeselare | Roeselare, Belgium

Make sure to catch a Knack Roeselare match to see Samuel Holt, former CSUN outside hitter and younger brother of national teamer Max Holt, in action. The 6-7 Cincinnati native left Northridge in 2015, despite still having a year of collegiate eligibility remaining and went pro, joining the roster of Sir Safety Umbria Volley in the Italian SuperLega. He has since played for BluVolley Verona, Volleyball Impavida Ortona, and Rinascita Volley ‘78 Lagonegro before signing with Roeselare in Belgium’s Liga A for the 2018-19 season. 

Sir Colussi Sicoma Perugia | Perugia, Italy

In his first year in Perugia, setter Jonah Seif, who competed for Team USA in the first week of VNL, takes the place of fellow American setter James Shaw. Shaw set for Perugia last season but chose to take a year off of competing in order to finish his undergraduate degree at Stanford.

Seif played for MKS Będzin during the 2017-18 season; however, after the team finished the season in a disappointing 13th place in Poland’s PlusLiga, management chose not to renew the contracts of four players, including Seif. 

Seif quickly found a new team, and by all accounts joining the Perugia roster marks a major upgrade. Perugia claimed a bronze medal in last year’s CEV Champions League and won silver the year before. The squad also won the SuperLega championship and the Coppa Italia last season.

Tours VB | Tours, France

The fourth Team USA middle blocker you can catch in action during Champions League is former UCLA Bruin Mitch Stahl. Stahl finished his collegiate career in May 2017 and played his first professional season with Paris Volley. This year, he’s moving up in France’s Ligue A, joining Tours, which currently ranks fourth in the league standings.

VK Cez Karlovarsko | Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

If you’re a fan of Penn State men’s volleyball, you’ll recognize the name Jalen Penrose. The 6-8 opposite from Cambridge, Massachusetts, ranked second in NCAA DI-II in aces per set during the 2018 men’s college season, averaging 0.59 aces per set with 54 total aces on the season. He also ranked fifth on the team with 152 kills as a senior.

Penrose signed with VK Cez Karlovarsko after graduating in May (with a double major in sports journalism and communication arts and science), and so far his team has excelled in the Czech league UNIQA Extraliga, winning its first five matches of the 2018-19 season.

United Volleys Frankfurt | Frankfurt, Germany

Former UCSD opposite Tanner Syftestad is playing his first professional season in Germany’s Bundesliga, and his team, the United Volleys Frankfurt, is also celebrating an exciting first, its first time competing in the CEV Champions League. 

Syftestad spent three of his four years at UCSD as a team captain and he became just the sixth Triton to surpass 1,000 career kills. At the end of his senior season, he ranked fifth all-time in kills (1213), tied for second in aces (85), third in attacks (2,965), and seventh in blocks (244).

Zenit Kazan | Kazan, Rusia

The reigning CEV Champions League gold medalist Zenit Kazan features just two non-Russian players: French superstar Earvin Ngapeth and top American hitter Matt Anderson.

Anderson has played for Kazan since 2012 and has played a huge role in the team’s recent success. Kazan won the Super Cup of Russia four times in Anderson’s six seasons with the team, won the Russia League five times, and claimed gold at the last four CEV Champions Leagues. In 2017, the team also won the World Club Championship and Anderson was named Best Outside Hitter at the tournament.

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