Beach Volleyball
    Hughes/Claes Win NORCECA Qualifier

    Kelly Claes (left) and Sara Hughes.
    June 25, 2015

    USC All-Americans Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, the defending AVCA sand volleyball national pairs champions, won a NORCECA beach qualifier in Hermosa Beach, Calif., on June 24, giving them first pick of the next NORCECA stop.

    Hughes/Claes now likely will compete in 3 upcoming NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit events: Aug. 5-10 in North Bay, Canada, Aug. 11-17 in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic and Aug. 26-31 in Cuba.

    Hughes/Claes, seeded sixth in the 12-team qualifier, defeated No. 11 Julie Kolinske/Laryssa Mereszczak (21-11, 21-11) in the opening round, then beat a trio higher-seeded teams teams en route to the title: No. 3 Emily Stockman/Allison McColloch (21-15, 21-19), No. 2 Heather Hughes/Amanda Dowdy (22-24, 21-11, 15-13) and No. 4 Irene Pollock/Caitlin Ledoux (21-7, 21-16).

    Fellow USC All-American Alexa Strange also competed in the tourney with Zoe Nightingale as the No. 12 seeded duo, but lost in the opening round to No. 5 Megan Wallin/Branagan Fuller (21-12, 21-14).

    Hughes/Claes, both who are going into their junior years at USC, also might play in several AVP tourneys this summer. Hughes won the 2014 AVCA pairs title as a freshman with Kirby Burnham prior to her 2015 victory with Claes.