Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes win Pac-12 Pairs Crown in All-USC Final

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    April 29, 2017

    TUCSON, Ariz. -- Fresh off winning the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Team Championship on Friday, the top-seeded Trojan duo of seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes took down fellow seniors and sixth-seeded Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler, 21-6, 21-11, to win their second consecutive Pac-12 Pairs' Championship at Bear Down Beach on Saturday, April 29. Claes and Hughes, who won the inaugural Pairs Championship last season at Merle Norman Stadium, are now 44-1 on the season with a 14-match winning streak.

    The all-USC final was set after Claes/Hughes and Bukovec/Wheeler battled their way past pairs from UCLA, Arizona State, and Stanford. To start the match, Claes and Hughes ran out to a 6-1 lead over their Trojan counterparts and never looked back. The first set ended in favor of the higher seed, 21-6. The second set was closer at the start, with points being traded by both pairs. However, Claes and Hughes found their groove in the middle of the set and ran away with a 21-11 victory to sew up their second Pac-12 Pairs crown in a row.

    In the quarterfinals, Claes and Hughes made quick work of the eighth-seeded UCLA pair of Elise Zappia and Torrey Van Winden (21-12, 21-14), while Bukovec and Wheeler upset third-seeded Bianca Arellano and Whitney Follette of Arizona State in three sets (19-21, 21-19, 16-14). Down by four points early in the deciding set, Bukovec and Wheeler fought all the way back to tie things up at 14-14 on a block by Bukovec. One final ace serve by Wheeler capped the 16-14 victory in the third and sent USC into the semifinals.

    Claes and Hughes' semifinal was a rematch of last year's Pac-12 Pairs final at USC, as the seniors took on fifth-seeded Madison and McKenna Witt of Arizona. After being down by four points in the middle of the set, Claes and Hughes buckled down and silenced the Wildcat faithful at Bear Down Beach with a commanding 21-15, 21-18 win.

    On the other end of the stadium, Bukovec and Wheeler's semifinal matchup was against Stanford's seventh-seeded duo of Kathryn Plummer and Jenna Gray. Just like their early morning match, the Trojan seniors had to fight back from an 0-1 deficit to claim the 18-21, 21-18, 15-13 win in three sets. That win would set up the all-Trojan affair in the finals later in the day.

    Next up, the top-ranked Trojans (34-1) will await their selection into this year's NCAA championship tournament. The NCAA selection show will take place tomorrow (Sunday, April 30) afternoon at 4 p.m.

    For more information on the two-time national champion USC beach volleyball team and a complete schedule, please visit USCTrojans.com and follow @USCBeach on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Instagram, and Snapchat.

    2017 PAC-12 PAIRS CHAMPIONSHIP 
    Bear Down Beach • Tucson, Ariz. 
    Saturday, April 29, 2017

    QUARTERFINALS
    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [8] Elise Zappia/Torrey Van Winden (UCLA); 21-12, 21-14
    [6] Sophie Bukovec/Allie Wheeler (USC) def. [3] Bianca Arellano/Whitney Follette (ASU); 19-21, 21-19, 16-14

    SEMIFINALS
    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [5] Madison Witt/McKenna Witt (ARIZ); 21-15, 21-18
    [6] Sophie Bukovec/Allie Wheeler (USC) def. [7] Kathryn Plummer/Jenna Gray (STAN); 18-21, 21-18, 15-13

    FINAL
    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [6] Sophie Bukovec/Allie Wheeler (USC); 21-6, 21-11