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Women’s quarterfinal winners at FIVB U17 World Championships

Fists clinched, Turkey's Pelin Ilgin made beach volleyball history with her teammate Duygu Nur Dogan by earning the first final four spot for their country in an FIVB age group world championship Saturday at the U17 event in Mexico.
Acapulco, Mexico, July 19, 2014 — After a week of sun, fun and abundant competition in the sand, two tandems from the United States along with one team each from Latvia and Turkey won quarterfinal matches Saturday to advance to Sunday’s semifinals and medal matches of the inaugural FIVB U17 Beach Volleyball World Championships being held in Acapulco.

The quarterfinals developed from an original total field of 29 women’s teams representing each of the five FIVB Confederations that started competing Wednesday at Playa Tamarindos in Acapulco Bay. Sunday’s schedule will have the two semifinals, bronze medal and gold medal matches to determine the first FIVB U17 World Champions in the double-gender event.

Sterling play throughout the week has netted spots in the final four in Acapulco for Turkey’s Duygu Nur Dogan/Pelin Ilgin, Latvia’s Tina Graudina/Linda Gramberga, USA’s Morgan Martin/Kathryn Plummer, USA’s Haley Hallgren/Joy Dennis.

The road to the championship continues Sunday morning with the semifinals at Playa Tamarindos. The pairings have Turkey’s Dogan/Ilgin meeting USA’s Hallgren/Dennis and Latvia’s Graudina/Gramberga taking on the challenge of USA’s Martin/Plummer.

In the first semi, Turkey’s Dogan/Ilgin have overcome two pool play losses to teams from the Czech Republic and Mexico, before firing up in the elimination rounds to eliminating teams from Canada, Puerto Rico and then Greece to compile a 5-2 record.

Turkey’s opponent, USA’s Hallgren/Dennis are 5-1 losing in pool play to a team from Russia in three sets and in the elimination rounds, defeating teams from England and Boliva.

In the second semi, it will be a battle of the unbeatens as both Latvia’s Graudina/Gramberga and USA’s Martin/Plummer are standing with perfect 6-0 records.

Latvia won their pool with a 4-0 record and was then taken to three sets in both of their elimination-round games, defeating teams from Italy and the Netherlands. USA’s Martin/Plummer also won their pool with a perfect 4-0 record before defeating teams from Mexico and Poland in the elimination rounds to book their final four ticket.

The U17 is the newest of four age group world championships held by the FIVB with the others being U19, U21 and U23.  In the FIVB age group world championships, this will be the first women’s final four finish for both Latvia and Turkey while the USA has one gold and one fourth in the U21 and one gold and one bronze in the U19.  This is the first time the USA has had two teams in the final four of a FIVB age-group world championship.

With the sun blazing, the breeze blowing, the sand shifting and the Mikasa’s flying, two of the four quarterfinals went to three sets, one was a very close two-setter and the fourth was overpowering.

Getting the women’s quarterfinals going on center court, Latvia’s Graudina/Gramberga held on through 54 dehydrating minutes to eventually over come Netherlands’ Nika Daalderop/Susanne Kos, 21-19, 16-21 and 15-13. It was the longest quarterfinal match as the two evenly-matched teams battled to the end.

Starting things off on court 2, Turkey’s doggedly determined Dogan/Ilgin held off Greece’s gritty Maria Klepkou/Paraskevi Kourtidou in two tough sets, 21-19, 21-19 in 42 minutes.

Next on center court after Latvia’s victory, USA’s Martin/Plummer soared past Poland’s Martyna Kloda/Monika Warczyglowa in twin sets, 21-6, 21-11 in 30 minutes, the quickest match of the four semifinals.

Ending the quarterfinals on court 2, USA’s talented Hallgren/ Dennis finally overcame Bolivia’s ferocious Fernanda Maida/Melanie Vargas in three sets, 14-21, 21-18 and 15-7 in the decider.

USA's Hallgren said after her team's three-set win over Bolivia, "We worked very hard for this win and I think our pace wore them down just enough to get the win in the third set.  Joy and I are playing well together, the heat is hard, but the competition is even tougher.  How sweet it is though to make it to the final four, especially with another American team there too."

•    25 men’s teams and 29 women’s teams from 35 countries are in Acapulco
•    Playa Tamarindos, the event site, hosted FIVB World Tour Opens in 1999, 2005 and 2006
•    With high temperatures, loads of sunshine and high humidity, 6,000 bottles of water were consumed during the tournament’s first day
•    Italy’s Reka Orsi Toth is younger sister of Viktoria Orsi Toth, a regular on the FIVB World Tour
•    While many of the coaches here have histories as players on the FIVB World Tour, one of the most prominent is Australia’s Kerri Pottharst, who won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
•    Latvia’s coach here in Acapulco is Aigais Birzulis, who coached Martins Plavins/Janis Smedins to the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics

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