Dykstra, Pardon Reach World Champ Semis

By BJ Evans | June 14, 2014, 3:08 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 14, 2014) – The U.S. women’s beach volleyball team of Lara Dykstra and Jace Pardon knocked out two medal contenders at the FIVB U23 World Championships on Saturday in Myslowice, Poland, to move into the semifinals for the first time.

Lara Dykstra and Jace Pardon
  Lara Dyistra, left, and Jace Pardon celebrate in Myslowice.

On Sunday, No. 29 seeded Dykstra (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Pardon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) will play Finland’s No. 13 Taru Lahti and Anniina Parkkinen in the semifinals. The winner will play the winner of the second semifinal between Australia’s No. 2 Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho and Canada’s No. 4 Melissa Humana-Paredes and Taylor Pischke.

Two other women’s teams finished tied for fifth after losing in the third round. Kelley Larsen (Jamul, Calif.) and Betsi Metter (Phoenix, Ariz.), who made it to the main draw thanks to a “lucky loser” ticket, fell to Lahti and Parkkinen, 20-22, 21-12, 15-10. Sara Hughes (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Kellie Woolever (Long Beach, Calif.) lost to Laird and Artacho, 21-16, 19-21, 16-14.

Dykstra and Pardon opened Saturday by defeating last year’s silver medalists Eduarda Lisboa Santos of Brazil and her new partner Carolina Horta Maxima, seeded No. 10, 13-21, 21-18, 15-10. The Americans had another great comeback in the quarterfinals against the U21 bronze medalists Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schützenhöfer of Austria seeded No. 3, 18-21, 21-15, 15-9.

“We came out tough after that first set”, said Dykstra, 21, in an FIVB press release 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.”

In the tiebreaker against Austria, Dykstra (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Pardon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) took the lead from the start. The closest Austria 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,” Dykstra said. “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,” Dykstra said. “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.”