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American collegiate standouts Claes & Hughes continue on

Sara Hughes (left) and Kelly Claes of the United States will be playing in the Rio Open after competing the last two-plus on the American collegiate scene.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 10, 2017 - A week before competing here in the FIVB World Tour’s $300,000 Rio Open, Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes from the University of Southern California will be the featured team in a collegiate-only beach volleyball event starting Thursday (May 11) on a famed spot for the sport in the United States.

USA Volleyball will host the American collegiate pairs championship in southern California in partnership with the Team USA Summer Champions Series as Hermosa Beach is the site for the competition consisting of 24 women's pairs and eight men's duos.  In addition to seeking recognition as the national pairs’ crown on May 13, the teams will be seeking a spot on the USA Volleyball collegiate beach volleyball national team.

Claes and Hughes, who have earned a main draw berth in next week’s Rio Open at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca in the Brazilian coastal city, led Southern California to the American collegiate school title last weekend in Gulf Shore, Ala., where the Women of Troy defeated Pepperdine University 3-2 in the national championship match this past Sunday.

In posting their second of two wins of the NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Championships over Pepperdine’s Delaney Knudsen and Madalyn Roh 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 15-10 ), Claes and Hughes improved their three-season collegiate record together to 140-3, including 45-1 this season.

When 21-year old Claes and 22-year old Hughes take to the sand at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, the pair will be competing in their fourth FIVB World Tour event together and first in 2017.  Earlier this year playing with different partners at the FIVB World Tour stop in the United States at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Hughes placed ninth with Lauren Fendrick and Claes 17th with Kelly Reeves.

In Claes and Hughes’ previous three FIVB World Tour events, the American collegiate standouts have improved their finishes each time starting with a 41st in 2015 in Long Beach (United States), a 17th last July in Klagenfurt and ninth in the post-2016 Olympic stop in Long Beach.  In addition, Claes and Hughes have gathered bronze medals at FIVB youth championships in 2013 (under-19 in Portugal) and 2014 (under-21 in Cyprus).  The pair has also competed in five NORCECA tour stops with four gold and one bronze medals to their credit.

As for this weekend’s event in Hermosa Beach, USA Volleyball's Chief Executive Officer Jamie Davis said that “USA Volleyball is delighted to be a part of Team USA's 2017 Summer Champions Series. This collegiate tournament aligns with our strategic direction of increasing participation at all levels and we believe the partnership with NBC Sports Network will invite new boys and girls to join us on the beach."

NBCSN will air the May 13 women's final live (6-7:30 p.m. ET) and immediately afterwards the taped delayed men's final. Men's and women's pool play will take place on Thursday, wrapping up Friday morning.  Single-elimination bracket play will span Friday and into Saturday's broadcasted finals.

"The opportunity to partner with the United States Olympic Committee to bridge the collegiate game to our National Teams is a fantastic initiative in continuing USA Volleyball's international competitive excellence," Davis added. "As volleyball's National Governing Body, the winning athletes will be selected to play on one of our collegiate beach national teams."

Here are the men’s and women’s pairs scheduled to compete in the American “collegiate pairs championship”.

McKenna Witt/Madison Witt, Arizona
Jessalyn Kinlaw/Megan Rice, Florida Atlantic
Leigh Andrew/Brooke Kuhlman, Florida State
Victoria Paranagua/Vanessa Freire, Florida State
Delaney Rohan/Chelsea Ross, Georgia State
Sarah Sponcil/Savannah Slattery, Loyola Marymount
Rachel Nieto/Kobi Pekich, Long Beach State
Claire Coppola/Kristen Nuss, LSU
Olivia Powers/Katie Lindelow, LSU
Delaney Knudsen/Madalyn Roh, Pepperdine
Corinne Quiggle/Brittany Howard, Pepperdine
Skylar Caputo/Heidi Dyer, Pepperdine
Anika Wilson/Deahna Kraft, Pepperdine
Lindsey Knudsen/Payton Rund, Saint Mary's College (CA)
Katie Smith/Adrianna Culbert, South Carolina
Macie Tendrich/Katie Zimmerman, South Carolina
Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes, Southern California
Terese Cannon/Nicolette Martin, Southern California
Abril Bustamante/Joy Dennis, Southern California
Jenna Belton/Jo Kremer, Southern California
Amy Neal/Jaelyn Greene, TCU
Kamila Tan/Jordan Anderson, UCLA
Elise Zappia/Madi Yeomans, UCLA
Crissy Jones/Tia Scambray, Washington

Nathan Vander Meer/Logan Webber, Davenport/Cincinnati Christian
Brett Rosenmeier/Colton Cowell, Hawaii
Matthew Yoshimoto/Jake Walenga, Lewis
Louis Richard/Matt Butler, Long Beach State
Alex Vohland/Brett Cooper, Mount St. Joseph
Tyler Hedley/Vincent Pizzuti, Palomar College/Long Beach State
Brian Ross/Bobby Costigan, Sacred Heart
Andy Benesh/Chris Orenic, Southern California
Lucas Yoder/Michael Saeta, Southern California/UC Irvine
Grant Friedman/Scott Stadick, UC Irvine
Reid Dominguez/Dillon Hoffman, UC Irvine
Jackson Bantle/Hagen Smith, UCLA

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