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Beach Volleyball: Hughes next in line

USC-bound Costa Mesa resident is heir apparent in city's women's beach volleyball lineage.

August 08, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
(Scott Kirkpatrick )

Technically, its borders do not reach the sand. But thanks to the achievements of Misty May-Treanor and April Ross, who both grew up there, Costa Mesa has become known as the epicenter of women's beach volleyball in the United States.

May-Treanor retired from international competition after claiming her third consecutive gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, and Ross, who won silver in London and has won a world championship, will likely contend for Olympic gold in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And, based on the growing legend of 18-year-old Sara Hughes, the city's reputation for spawning the American Queen of the Beach should continue to be nothing less than a "shore" thing.

Hughes, named the nation's top female indoor volleyball recruit recently by Volleyball Magazine, is also widely considered the country's top teenage prospect on the beach.

A recent graduate of Mater Dei High, Hughes, the younger sister of UC Irvine men's volleyball star Connor Hughes, who was named MVP of the Final Four while helping the Anteaters earn their second straight NCAA title last spring, has eschewed the indoor game to focus on sand volleyball at USC.

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Unlike most American players, Sara Hughes' first pass occurred on the sand, and she learned the two-player game training every summer with Huntington Beach-based coach Bill Lovelace from the age of 8 to 15.

Though her success indoors as a setter and right-side hitter was indeed impressive — she was named Orange County Player of the Year as a senior by the Orange County Register, was a three-time All-CIF Southern Section performer, and she helped Long Beach Mizuno Rockstar club team win gold at the Junior Olympics — it was Hughes' love for the beach game that made her decide to spend her competitive days at the beach.

"I wanted to play both indoor and beach [in college]," said Hughes, who along with first-time partner Kelly Claes (out of El Dorado High) finished third at the Federation Internationale de Volleyball U19 World Championships in Portugal in July. "I always loved indoor, but part of me loved beach volleyball a little bit more."

And beach volleyball clearly loves her back. She has won nearly every AAU national age-group title since she was 10, was named Best of the Beach a handful of times, and has dominated for nearly a decade on the California Beach Volleyball Assn. summer circuit.

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