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Australia’s Laird/Artacho claim U23 crown in Myslowice

Australia's Mariafe Artacho (left) and Nicole Laird with their coach Lauren McLeod
Myslowice, Poland, June 15, 2014 - Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho had to fight hard to claim the gold medal at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championships on Sunday.

The Australians defeated USA’s new team Lara Dykstra and Jace Pardon 2-1 (21-19, 17-21, 15-7) on centre court at Slupna Park in Myslowice.

The Americans played a clever game with cuts and dinks around Laird’s big block and pushed the Australians to the limit.

“We knew it was going to be tough, USA always comes to play”, said Artacho, who added a second medal to her bronze at the Junior World Champs in 2012. “They are very competitive, we knew it was going to be a three-setter.”

USA came back strong after losing the first set and pushed the match into a tiebreak. “We dropped concentration a bit, made a few errors”, said Laird about the second set. “But USA leapt into the game as well. All credit where there is credit due. But we were prepared for a long game.”

With strong serving and placed attacks down the line Artacho made the difference in the third set. At the first Australian set point Laird scored the winning point with her serve.

“Mariafe has a little bit of magic in her back pocket”, said Laird about her partner. “She’s had that her whole volleyball career and I never get stressed in the back of the sets, because I feel save that she will pull something out. It was a fight, but we got back.”

Second bronze for Canada

Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes and Taylor Pischke won the bronze medal, for the second year in a row. After they lost to Australia in the semifinal they came back with a 2-1 (21-18, 14-21, 15-10) win over Finland’s Taru Lahti and Anniina Parkkinen.

Pischke: “To be honest it was pretty tough to come out and bounce back and play that third place match, cause obviously we did not want to be there. It was a tough loss against Australia. We had a lot of chances to win that one.”

After coming out strong against Finland, the Canadian girls let loose a little in the second set and the Finish girls took their chances to win it. In the tiebreak Humana-Paredes and Pischke got their act together and claimed third place after all.

“It was important we came back and won the bronze”, said Pischke. “Not the colour we wanted, but a medal is a medal and we are happy.”

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