Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes Capture AVCA Pairs National Crown

    Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes

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    May 3, 2015

    GULF SHORES, Ala. - USC sand volleyball sophomores Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes claimed the 2015 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Pairs National Championship on Sunday, May 3. The Trojans capped a 25-match winning streak with four victories in the 16-team pairs bracket and completed their season with a 44-3 overall record.

    A Trojan pair has now won the pairs' national crown three years in a row. Kirby Burnham and Stevi Robinson own the 2013 championship; and Burnham and Hughes won the title in 2014. It is also the first time that a school has won both the team and pairs national championships in the same year since 2012 (Pepperdine).

    To win the title, Claes and Hughes put their top seed up against the second-seeded tandem of Betsi Metter and Sarah Sponcil from Loyola Marymount. It was the sixth meeting of the season between the two pairs, but Claes and Hughes put the past behind them and came through with a 21-12, 21-18 win in the title match.

    Claes and Hughes began their run with a 21-17, 21-14 win in the round of 16 over Pepperdine's 16th-seeded duo of Lara Dykstra and Becca Strehlow. Seeded ninth, sophomore Sophie Bukovec and junior Alexa Strange opened the round of 16 with a match against eighth-seeded Julie Bassett and Kaley Melville of Stetson. Down, 16-14, in the first set, the two Trojans fought back to equalize at 18, and then took over to claim a 21-18 win. Bukovec and Strange then completed the first-round victory with a 21-14 win in the second set.

    Head-to-head in the quarterfinals, Claes and Hughes put their best on display to hold off Bukovec and Strange, 21-12, 21-13. There, they faced the 12th-seeded Arizona pair of Madi Kingdon and Kaitlyn Leary. Claes and Hughes were crisp in the first set for a 21-16 win, and then took a decisive 21-14 victory in the second set for one of two spots in the finals.

    Yesterday (May 2), the No. 1-ranked USC sand volleyball team (28-0) capped a perfect season with a 3-0 victory over No. 6 Long Beach State (17-7) to claim the program's first team national title. Head coach Anna Collier and the Women of Troy hoisted the trophy to represent USC's 123rd all-time team national championship.

    For more information on the USC sand volleyball team and a complete schedule, please visit and follow @USCSandVBall on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    2015 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Pairs National Championships
    Gulf Shores, Ala. | Sunday, May 3, 2015

    ROUND OF 16
    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [16] Lara Dykstra/Becca Strehlow (PEP); 21-17, 21-14
    [9] Sophie Bukovec/Alexa Strange (USC) def. [8] Julie Bassett/Kaley Melville (STET); 21-18, 21-14

    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [9] Sophie Bukovec/Alexa Strange (USC); 21-12, 21-13

    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [12] Madi Kingdon/Kaitlyn Leary (ARIZ); 21-16, 21-14

    [1] Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes (USC) def. [2] Betsi Metter/Sarah Sponcil (LMU); 21-12, 21-18