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Australia fights back to move into U23 final

Australia's Nicole Laird (back) and Mariafe Artacho will play their first final
Myslowice, Poland, June 15, 2014 – Australia’s Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho defeated last year’s bronze medallists Melissa Humana-Paredes and Taylor Pischke on Sunday to move into the final of the FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championships.

The Aussies came back from behind in a very close semifinal against the Canadians: 18-21, 22-20, 15-9. The match almost seemed a done deal at the end of the second set when Pischke’s block gave Canada an 18-15 lead. The Canadians even had a match point at 20-19, but Laird and Artacho fought back to take the game into a tiebreak.

This time the Australian team took the lead from the start. The Canadians levelled a few times, but were not consistent enough with their side-out. On Artacho’s service turn Australia took a four-point lead (11-7) and kept going. At 13-9 Laird had a big block on Pischke and a Canadian netball finished the tiebreak at 15-9.

“It feels a bit unreal”, said Laird, who will play her first medal match ever. “There was nothing to lose at the end of the second. I thought we might as well find a way to win and it paid off.”

Artacho already won bronze at the Junior World Championships in 2012, but this will be her first final too. “It’s amazing”, she said. “It’s an amazing experience, and we are going all the way now. I did not even remember we were behind in the second. For us it was just take it to the end, to the last whistle. So we were patient, just one at a time and stuck together.”

USA defeats Finland

The Australians will play USA’s Lara Dykstra and Jace Pardon in the final at 15.00. The new American team eased by Finland’s Taru Lahti and Anniina Parkkinen in the other semifinal: 21-15 21-13.

Dykstra and Pardon, playing their first event together, controlled the game from the beginning till the end of the match. They served hard and put a lot of pressure on the 17-year old Parkkiinen. The Finnish girls were not able to take a lead at any time.

“We controlled the game from the beginning”, said Dykstra. “We focused on our side of the court, played tough in service and all of that helped us to win. Being in the final was our goal, we managed to reach it and we’re very happy, but the most important game for us will be in the afternoon.”

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