Klagenfurt-bound Claes & Hughes top World University Championships podium

Parnü, Estonia, July 17, 2016 - Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes of the United States captured their second-straight international Beach Volleyball gold medal here Sunday by defeating compatriots the Witt twins in the finals of the World University Championships.

Parnü, Estonia, July 17, 2016 - Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes of the United States captured their second-straight international Beach Volleyball gold medal here Sunday by defeating compatriots the Witt twins in the finals of the World University Championships.

Quick links:
A1 Major Klagenfurt
Men - Qualification
Men - Main draw
Women - Qualification
Women - Main draw

In winning their 10th-straight match, including seven victories in the WUC with each in two sets by an average score of 21-13, Claes and Hughes scored a 2-0 (21-16, 21-13) win in 27 minutes over the Witts (Madison and McKenna).  Both teams were undefeated entering the finale with Claes and Hughes the second-seeded team in the competition with the Witts No. 28 on the list.

Next up for Claes and Hughes is their first-ever FIVB World Tour event appearance outside of the United States as the Americans received a Main Draw “wildcard” for the A1 Major Klagenfurt in Austria July 26-31.  The event will include 12 women’s pairs headed the next week for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

In their only FIVB World Tour event, Claes and Hughes dropped a qualifying match at the ASICS World Series last August at Long Beach in southern California.  The 20-year old Claes and the 21-year old Hughes did play together in international FIVB-sanctioned events with bronze medals at the 2013 under-19 (Portugal) and the 2014 under-21 (Cyprus) world championships where the pair combined to win 14 of 17 matche.

Prior to the WUC title, Claes and Hughes captured a gold medal July 3 at the NORCECA Tour stop in North Bay, Canada where the Americans avenged an earlier pool play setback to Julie Gordon and Brandie Wilkerson to defeat the Canadians 2-0 (21-16, 21-13).  In a North Bay group match, Gordon and Wilkerson posted a 2-0 (22-20, 21-12) win over Claes and Hughes.

To gain entry into the WUC event, Claes and Hughes won the June 5 USA Trials.  They received berths into three NORCECA tour this summer events by winning the May 28 qualifier in Hermosa Beach, Calif.  On the American domestic tour in June, Claes and Hughes took third place at the AVP's New York City (June 19) stop and then made their first-ever appearance in an AVP final to take second place at the AVP San Francisco event (June 26).

In both domestic events, Claes and Hughes were defeated by American Olympians April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the New York semi-final and the San Francisco finale.  Overall, the pair has a 12-4 domestic record with three losses to Ross and Walsh Jennings.  The other Claes/Hughes setback was a three-setter to Lance Carico and Summer Ross.

This spring, Claes and Hughes posted a 34-2 match mark to lead the University of Southern California to the inaugural Pac-12 Conference championship and the sport's first-ever NCAA crown. The Women of Troy completed a 30-match winning streak and defeated Florida State, 3-0, in the first NCAA title match.  Claes and Hughes, who have a 57-7 overall match record this season, were each named AVCA All-Americans and won the first Pac-12 Pairs championship.