Burnham-Hughes Win AVCA National Pairs Championship

    Sara Hughes (left) and Kirby Burnham with the AVCA pairs national championship medals.

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    May 4, 2014

    USC senior Kirby Burnham and freshman Sara Hughescaptured the pairs title of the 2014 American Volleyball Coaches Association Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship with a thoroughly dominant 21-15, 21-13 win over Hawaii's Karissa Cook and Brittany Tiegs on a warm, cloudless and breezy Sunday (May 4) in Gulf Shores, Ala.

    It is the second year in a row that a USC duo has won the AVCA pairs crown. Last year, Burnham won it with fellow USC All-American Stevi Robinson.

    Earlier in the day, USC head coach Anna Collierwas named the 2014 AVCA National Coach of the Year, while Burnham and Hughes each were named AVCA All-American first teamers. Last year, Burnham and Robinson were USC's first-ever women's sand volleyball All-Americans and Burnham now becomes the program's first two-time All-American.

    In the final, Burnham's huge block and Hughes' uncanny digs thwarted any offense Cook and Tiegs might have had. On offense, the USC duo mixed thundering kills with precision cut shots throughout the match.

    Burnham/Hughes, seeded fourth in the tourney, never lost a set on Sunday as they got to the final with sweeps in three earlier matches. In the first round of pairs play, they defeated 13th-seed Kelli Dallmann/McKenzie Phelps of Grand Canyon, 21-15, 21-11. Burnham/Hughes then beat No. 12-seed Katie Spieler/Nikki Taylor of Hawaii, 21-19, 21-12, in the quarterfinals and Loyola Marymount's No. 9 seed of Litara Keil/Betsi Metter, 21-19, 21-15, in the semifinals to set up the final matchup against the third-seeded Cook/Tiegs.

    USC's other entry in Sunday's pairs tournament was the 10th-seeded duo of freshman Kelly Claes and sophomore Alexa Strange, who lost in the first round to No. 7-seed Marcela Araya/Zuzana Markova of Louisiana Monroe, 21-17, 21-19.

    First Round:
    #4 Kirby Burnham/Sara Hughes (USC1) def. #13 Kelli Dallmann/Mackenzie Phelps (GCU1) 21-15, 21-11
    #7 Marcela Araya/Zuzana Markova (ULM1) def. #10 Kelly Claes/Alexa Strange (USC2) 21-17, 21-19

    #4 Kirby Burnham/Sara Hughes (USC1) def. #12 Katie Spieler/Nikki Taylor (HAW2) 21-19, 21-12

    #4 Kirby Burnham/Sara Hughes (USC1) def. #9 Litara Keil/Betsi Metter (LMU1) 21-19, 21-15

    #4 Kirby Burnham/Sara Hughes (USC1) def. #3 Brittany Tiegs/Karissa Cook (HAW1) 21-15, 21-13