VBM Beach All-Americans: Claes/Hughes top pair, LSU’s Brock top coach

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LSU's Russell Brock is the VolleyballMag.com beach coach of the year/LSU photo

As if there could be anyone else, USC seniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes are the top pair of the year as VolleyballMag.com announces its inaugural Collegiate Beach Volleyball All-American Awards.

LSU coach Russell Brock, who has taken the Tigers into national prominence, including a tie for fifth at the recent National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship, is the VBM coach of the year.

USC has won the last three national titles, including the first NCAA crown last year and then again May 7. And during that time, Claes and Hughes have been dominant. While their 103-match winning streak was broken this season, they still went 55-1, finishing with a 147-4 record together.

Also on the first team are two other conference pairs of the year (Claes and Hughes won the honor in the Pac-12). Morgan Martin and Mikayla of Hawai’i were the Big West pair of the year, while Sarah Sponcil and Savannah Slattery of Loyola Marymount won the award in the West Coast Conference. Sponcil, interestingly, is transferring to UCLA, where she will have a season left in both indoors and beach.

The first team also includes Delaney Knudsen and Maddy Roh of Pepperdine and the McNamara twins of UCLA, Nicole and Megan.

Brock’s LSU team went program-best 27-8 this season, which included a 24-match winning streak and the Tigers’ debut in the national tournament. LSU beat 10 ranked opponents this season.

“That’s pretty exciting,” Brock said after learning of the honor. “It was a fun ride, for sure.”

His teams were 40-28 in his first three years but improved play by veterans and the addition of key freshmen, including freshman Claire Coppola and Kristen Nuss at No. 1 saw the Tigers take a quantum leap this season.

“We’ve got a good group here,” said Brock, who added Trey Cruz to his staff this year to go with assistant Drew Hamilton, who has also been at LSU since it started beach.

“We’ve set a vision and a course for the program and worked hard together to create an environment that the players we coach will believe that we can be that good. We feel like we can give them enough information and technique to have the opportunity to be successful.

“When you watch this game a lot, sometimes it really comes down to two players who believe they’re going to win. A lot of times it’s really comparable on the talent. There are lots of good coaches out and they have lots of good players. In those big matches you have to convince your players that they’re good enough to play on that stage. And I think that was the difference this year.”
Pepperdine’s Delaney Knudsen of Pepperdine is a first-team VolleyballMag.com All-American selection/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

2017 VolleyballMag.com Collegiate Beach All-American Awards
Pair of the Year: Sara Hughes-Kelly Claes (USC)
Coach of the Year: Russell Brock (LSU)

First Team
Kelly Claes (6-2, Sr.) and Sara Hughes (5-10, Sr.) USC
Delaney Knudsen (5-10, Sr.) and Maddy Roh (5-11, Soph.) Pepperdine
Morgan Martin (6-1, Fr.) and Mikayla Tucker (5-8, Sr.) Hawaii
Nicole McNamara (5-9, Soph.) and Megan McNamara (5-9, Soph.) UCLA
Sarah Sponcil (5-10, Jr.) and Savannah Slattery (5-11, Fr.) Loyola Marymount

Second Team
Nele Barber (6-0, Jr.) and Rachel Nieto (5-10, Jr.) Long Beach State
Brooke Kuhlman (5-10, Soph.) and Leigh Andrew (6-0, Graduate student) Florida State
Delaney Rohan (5-10, Sr.) and Chelsea Ross (5-10, Graduate student) Georgia State
Brittany Howard (6-3, Graduate student) and Corinne Quiggle (5-10, Jr.) Pepperdine
Claire Coppola (6-1, Fr.) and and Kristen Nuss (5-6, Fr.), LSU

Honorable Mention
Sophie Bukovec (6-1, Sr.) and Allie Wheeler (5-11, Sr.) USC
Molly Turner (5-8, Jr.) and Tjasa Kotnik (6-3, Sr.) Grand Canyon
Emily Maglio (6-3, Soph.) and Laurel Weaver (5-11, Jr.) Hawaii
McKenna Witt (5-11, Sr.) and Madison Witt (6-0, Sr.) Arizona
Nikki Taylor (6-4, Sr.) and Ka’iwi Schucht (5-9, Jr.) Hawaii

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