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Latvia vs. United States for FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam gold

Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs kills the Mikasa past Brazil's Pedro Salgado as he and Janis Smedis came back to win a semi against Salgado/Bruno Schmidt to advance to the gold medal match tonight at the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam.

Corrientes, Argentina, May 26, 2013—With tough-as-nails battling across the night, Saturday afternoon’s men’s semifinal matches have set the stage for tonight’s medal matches as Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins will challenge USA’s Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson for the internationally-televised gold medal scheduled for 7 p.m. local time to conclude the $440,000 FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam double-gender tournament. The FIVB international event was held for the first time in Corrientes and was being played at the purpose-built site with a 7,500-seat temporary center court stadium located on the sands of Arazati Beach – Costanera Sur on the banks of the Rio Parana.

Earning the opportunity for a golden moment in the Argentinean sand, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins advanced by coming from way down to earn a hard-fought three-set semifinal victory over Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt/Pedro Salgado, losing the first set 14-21 before roaring back to win the second, 21-17 and then break a dead heat in the third to win the set and the match, 15-11 in 51 minutes.

Winning their semifinal match to advance to meet Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins will be USA’s Gibb/ Patterson who also lost the first set 19-21, hung in and squeezed out the second to get into the third set tie-breaker that was beach volleyball at its best with USA winning a tight match in overtime over the Italians, 17-15 in 55 minutes.

With Netherland’s Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel earning their first FIVB title Saturday night to end the women’s tournament, the gold medal teams in each gender in the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam will each split $33,000, the silver $22,000, the bronze $16,500 and fourth place $12,900. The FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam was the 286th FIVB men’s event since the FIVB began play in 1989 and the 248th FIVB women’s tournament since they started in 1992.

The bronze medal match, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. local time today, will feature Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado challenging Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo. Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado and Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo are both 4-2 in the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam.

In the first semifinal, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins started slow and Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado put the Latvians down early and kept the heat on. In the second set, the Latvians seemed to find their game and stayed ahead of the Brazilians to win and set up the tiebreaker. The tiebreaker started as a dead heat with the score tied at every point to 8-8 when Latvia pulled to a 10-8 lead that then extended to four to the end the match at 15-11.

Afterwards, Latvia’s happy warrior Samoilovs said, “Pedro and Bruno are one of the best teams in Brazil, they played really good. We have already played against them in Fozhou and it was an amazing match but we lost, so this time we were ready to win.”

Latvia’s Janis Smedins summed things up, commenting, “In the middle of the first set we made a lot of mistakes and lost it, but we didn't give up, fought for every ball until the end and the score is for us!”

In the second semifinal, USA’s Gibb/Patterson face a team in Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo who seemed ready to play as they worked the first set, though it was close to be able to finish it at the end.  In the second set the Italians led early before the Americans rallied after trailing 9-11 to tie the score at 12-12 and then take a lead at 13-12 on a Gibb service ace and a huge block of a Nicolai kill attempt. The score was tied again at 19-19 and 20-20 with Gibb landing a backhanded safe near the Italian’s player box.

In the tiebreaker between USA and Italian, USA scored first on a Patterson kill and took a 3-1 lead before the Italians came back to ties in at 5-5. The set went back and forth from there, ending up 11 ties and five lead changes before a Patterson cross court kill give the Americans a 16-15 lead and the set and match ended as Lupo’s cut attempt against the block of Gibb went wide and landed outside the sideline.

USA’s Gibb, who finished fifth in the London Olympics with his former teammate Sean Rosenthal, related after his team’s victory, “We scratched, clawed and kept biting until the very last point; that is the way we won the match. The Italians are such great players with such a great future.”

In their head-to-head competition after today’s semifinals, Latvia’s Somoilovs/J. Smedins tied the series history with Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado 1-1. with the Brazilians winning in another three-set match at the at this year’s FIVB Fuzhou Open. As a new team, USA’s Gibb/Patterson and Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo had not met before.

In looking at their FIVB history, for Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado, this is their first final four in only their third tournament together, although separately Salgado is playing in his 100th FIVB international event while Schmidt is playing in his 66th career FIVB event.  Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo are playing together in their 19th FIVB tournament while individually it is the 47th for Nicolai and 27th for Lupo. Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins is just their third FIVB event as a team and overall Samoilovs is playing in his 97th FIVB events and J. Smedins is participating in his 65th. As a new team, this is just the third FIVB international tournament for USA’s Gibb/Patterson, who won the FIVB Shanghai Grand Slam three weeks ago in just their second event together. Separately, Gibb is playing his 73rd FIVB tournament and Patterson his 12th.

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