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USA’s Dykstra/Pardon knock out two top teams to move into U23 semifinals

USA's Lara Dykstra (left) and Jace Pardon
Myslowice, Poland, June 14, 2014 - USA’s Lara Dykstra and Jace Pardon knocked out two medal contenders at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championships on Saturday to move into the semifinals for the first time.

The Americans defeated last year’s silver medallist Eduarda Lisboa Santos and her new partner Carolina Horta Maxima in three sets (13-21, 21-18, 15-10) in the morning and had another great comeback in the quarterfinals against the U21 bronze medallists Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schützenhöfer (18-21, 21-15, 15-9).

“We came out tough after that first set”, said 21-year old Dykstra about their quarterfinal. “We did not play our best and we had a couple of missed opportunities, but we were ready to fight.”

“They came out swinging really hard and we had to adjust to their game. But we served tough and got them out of their system, so we could defend better, because they are really hard hitting. It was kind of a similar game as this morning against Brazil.”

After equalling in sets, the 29th seeded USA team took a lead from the start. The closest the third seeded Austrians came, was two points behind. Dykstra and Pardon got their first match point at 14-8 and grabbed the semifinal spot on their second.

“It was a goal to get to this point, we expected it, but we knew it was tough and we needed to fight. We are just excited to play the next game, we’ll take it point by point. We really want to get into this medal matches.”

The two American college beach volleyball players did not play at the U23 in Myslowice last year, but did compete at the U21 in Umag with different partners. Dykstra finished 25th and Pardon 9th.

“Last year we both did not do that well at the U21, so we kind of switched around and we started training together. We are both kind of small, defender-like players, but we just have good chemistry and we wanted to come to the next world championships together.”

Finland prevents all-American semifinal

Their opponents in the semifinal, Finland’s Taru Lahti and Anniina Parkkinen, did not expect to reach the last four at all. “We are so happy it’s even hard to say anything”, Lahti said. “We didn’t expect to be in the semi’s, but we trained so hard that this is a great reward.”

The Finnish girls defeated 5th seeded Ieva Dumbauskaite and Monika Povilaityte (19-21, 21-16, 15-9) in the second round and prevented an all-American semifinal by knocking out lucky losers Kelley Larsen and Betsi Metter in the quarterfinals (20-22, 21-12, 15-10).

The 21-year old Lahti is the more experienced player who even played some World Tour events in the past three years. The 17-year old Parkkinen plays her first FIVB age-group event in Myslowice.

The Finnish girls started strong, due to some great serving by Lahti. They were leading 12-6, but the Americans came back with hard attacks to take the set 22-20. In the second the strong serving Finnish had no problem breaking through the American defence. The tiebreak was tight in the beginning, but in the end Lahti and Parkkinen simply were the more effective team.

They were so happy that they started crying right after the last point. “But we are incredibly happy, really! The beginning of the game was really good for us, then we didn’t stop playing well, but Americans started to do great job! Fortunately, we got our concentration back for the second set and tie-break.”

Meeting of old friends in second semifinal

In the other semifinal on Sunday Australia’s Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho will meet their close friends Melissa Humana-Paredes and Taylor Pischke from Canada.

The second seeded Australians took revenge against USA’s Hughes/Woolever after a 2-1 loss earlier in the pool. This time Laird and Artacho won 2-1 (21-16, 19-21, 16-14). In the second round they had already beaten Czech team Galova/Vankova (21-15, 25-23).

Last year’s bronze medallists Humana-Paredes and Pischke reached the last four by knocking out Germany’s Behrens/Seyfferth (21-9, 21-12) and Spain’s Lobato/Soria (21-19 14-21 15-13).


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