Former Cal State Northridge All-Americans Isaac Kneubuhl and Jacek Ratajczak have crossed paths again as both are playing on the same side of the net for VC Gotha in Germany.
VC Gotha competes in the top German men's volleyball league, the first division, 12-team Bundesliga. VC Gotha moved up to the first division last season and narrowly missed qualifying for the playoffs.
Kneubuhl, a four-year starter for the Matadors (2005-08) and an AVCA All-American as a senior, is a veteran of playing professional volleyball overseas. Kneubuhl trained with the U.S. National Team in 2008, played in the Pan American Games in 2009 and has since played for VCA Hypo Niederosterreich in Austria. He is in his second season playing for VC Gotha.
Ratajczak, who graduated from Cal State Northridge in 2011 after earning AVCA All-America honors in both 2009 and 2010, is in his first season playing professionally.
The VC Gotha roster has 10 players, five of which are international players. In addition to five German players, three are from the United States, one is from Hungary and one is from Israel. The season officilally starts October 1st and runs through the end of February followed by playoffs.
"So far we've had four preseason matches and one tournament," said Ratajczak. "We practice twice a day Monday through Friday during the season so my weekends are usually spent resting and exploring.
"What's really fun is that I'm going to be playing against some people I faced while at Northridge," added Ratajczak. "Kawika Shoji (Stanford) and Paul Carroll (Pepperdine) are playing for a team in Berlin and there are others playing all over Germany. I'm excited to see some of those guys on the other side of the net as well as face some of Germany's best players. I hope this will be a good first step in my volleyball career."
Other former Matadors also continue to further their professional careers. Kevin McKniff is playing for the Guaynabo Mets of the Puerto Rico National Superior League after playing for VBK Worthersee Lowen in Austria last year.
Eric Vance, who played for Guaynabo in 2010, is playing for Chaumont in France's B League. Vance has also played for Team Paul Mitchell for the FIVB Men's Club World Championship in December 2010 as well as the Pan American Cup for the U.S. in 2009.
Nils Nielsen is currently playing for Tours Volleyball in France. Tours is the current champions of the French Cup. Nielsen's vast international career has taken him to Doha, Qatar as a member of Team Paul Mitchell and Sports Club. He has also played professionally in Puerto Rico (Plataneros de Corozal), Greece (Apolon Klamaria), Bahrain (Busiteen Club) and Switzerland (Pallavolo Lugano). Nielsen also won the Gold Medal for the U.S. at the American Cup in 2009 and was a Silver Medalist for the U.S. at the Pan American Games in 2007.
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