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USA beats USA for Women’s gold medal at FIVB U17 World Championships

Picturing how close the all-USA match itself was, USA's Morgan Martin, left, and USA's Joy Dennis are all tied up at the FIVB net during Morgan and Kathryn Plummer's three-set gold medal win at he inaugural FIVB U17 World Championships.
Acapulco, Mexico, July 20, 2014 — Fast friends and active training partners back home and rivals in Acapulco, USA’s Morgan Martin/Kathryn Plummer defeated fellow Americans USA’s Haley Hallgren/Joy Dennis to win the women’s gold medal match early Sunday evening at the inaugural double-gender FIVB U17 Beach Volleyball World Championships held on Playa Tamarindos in Acapulco, Mexico.

With the championship contested for players from around the world under 17 years of age, winning the historical first bronze medal of the FIVB U17 World Champions was Latvia’s Tina Graudina/Linda Gramberga over Turkey’s Duygu Nur Dogan/Pelin Ilgin.

The final four teams emerged from an original total field of 29 women’s teams representing each of the five FIVB Confederations that started Wednesday at Playa Tamarindos in Acapulco Bay.

In the all-USA women’s gold medal finale featuring compatriot training partners, USA’s Martin, 16, Mission Viejo, Calif./Kathryn Plummer, 15, Aliso Viejo, Calif. thrilled the overflow crowed by coming from behind to defeat USA’s Hallgren, 15, Southlake, Texas/Joy Dennis, 15, Cypress, Calif., 20-22, 21-18 and 15-13 in a blistering 50-minute match. USA’s Plummer was selected as the women’s Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

USA’s Martin/Plummer finished the march to gold in Acapulco with a perfect 8-0 record while USA’s silver medalists Hallgren/Dennis leave with a 6-2 record in the inaugural FIVB U17 World Tournament.

From appearances, it looked like either team could win any of the three sets, but USA’s slightly older Martin/Plummer pulled a few more ‘tricks’ out of the hat with never-before-taken shots to squeeze out the serious battle in the end.

All three sets were tied multiple times with the surprising ‘younger bunch’ Hallgren/Dennis winning the first set in overtime 22-20.

Playing mature beyond their youthful years, USA’s Martin/Plummer bounced back in the second set to pull out a 21-18 win to set Acapulco’s sandy stage with a tie-breaker set to rival many on the professional FIVB World tour where most of these great young athletes are headed in their future.

The third deciding set was titanic as the two friendly rivals sparred back and forth with USA’s Martin/Plummer building and early lead at 6-3, then USA’s Halgren/Dennis tied it at 7-7 before the more ‘veteran’ of the two teams slowly inched away. USA’s Halgren/Dennis saved off one match point to pull within one at 13-14, but USA’s Martin ended it all on the next rally for point, set and match with a cross-corner kill.

Taking a piece of history from Alcapulco themselves, in the women’s bronze medal match between two top European teams, Latvia’s talented Graudina/ Gramberga submerged Turkey’s determined Dogan/Ilgin in two sets, 21-9, 21-9 in 30 minutes.

After a comfortable win in the first set, Latvia’s Graudina, 16, Jurmala/Gramberga, 14, Riga, backed it up by shooting ahead quickly in the second set as well 6-1 with their experience, even at such young ages against Turkey’s Dogan/Ilgin, both 15 years old and both from Ankara.

In addition to the historic bronze medal and incredible memories of a first-time event, Latvia’s Graudina/Gramberga leave Mexico with a 7-1 record in the tournament.

With the first final four finish for their country in FIVB age-group world championships, Turkey’s Dogan/Ilgin end their Acapulco experience with an encouraging 5-4 record in Acapulco.

Almost breathless, but deeply happy after her team’s three-set final, USA’s Martin said, “We train with them often and have played against them but nothing compares to this feeling of winning the FIVB U17 World Championship against them in Acapulco. It was a hard match, which we expected, but even when we got behind I tried to just concentrate on each individual point. We an honor to be able to represent the United States, our home, in an international event like this and we wouldn’t be here without the support, training and encouragement of USA Volleyball.”

With her own comments of joy and exuberance, Plummer shared, “Believe it or not, I predicted that we would win the final set 15-13 to give us the gold medal and this very historic FIVB U17 gold medal. We know Haley (Hallgren) and Joy (Dennis) so well we dreamed it would be our two teams in the final and it was. Then my prediction came to pass because we are playing at just the same level now we hit a few shots we don’t normally even try and most of them worked.  That was the difference.”

USA’s Martin/Plummer tandem stood tall to finish with a perfect 8-0 record in Acapulco. They won their pool with a perfect 4-0 record before defeating teams from Mexico, Poland and then Latvia and finish with the gold medal match victory over USA’s Hallgren/Dennis.

USA’s Hallgren/Dennis duo finished 6-2, losing in pool play to a team from Russia in three sets and in the elimination rounds, defeating teams from England, Boliva and Turkey before the gold medal loss to USA.

Turkey’s Dogan/Ilgin tandem overcame two pool play losses to teams from the Czech Republic and Mexico, before firing up in the elimination rounds to eliminate teams from Canada, Puerto Rico and then Greece before the semifinal loss to USA’s Hallgren Dennis to compile a 5-4 record.

Latvia’s Graudina/Gramberga tandem was undefeated in pool play with a 4-0 record and extended it with elimination wins over teams from Italy and the Netherlands before the hard-fought loss to USA’s Martin/Plummer in the semifinals to end with a 7-1 record.

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 and it now has two medals to start the legacy of the FIVB U17 World Championships.

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