Perhaps you needed proof. Proof that Sara Hughes is, indeed, the one to fit the headline of this very podcast: That she is fit to become the next face of beach volleyball.
Had you stopped by Huntington Beach last Friday morning, you’d have had all the proof you’d need.
There, on court one, was Hughes, this week’s repeat guest on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, and partner Kelly Claes. There was coach Jose Loiola and mentor Misty May-Treanor. There was Ben Vaught and Tanner Woods, because, yes, Hughes and Claes train with professional men on occasion.
And there, lining the court was a dozen or so girls, members of the Long Beach City beach volleyball team, watching, studying, looking on.
Taking notes on Hughes.
Yes, they were at the Huntington Beach Pier that day because they had practice – but a Long Beach-based team doesn’t necessarily need to come to Huntington Beach to practice. There were there because that’s where May-Treanor, the director of beach volleyball operations at LBC, was, and May-Treanor was there because, well, Hughes.
There’s a reason Hughes and Claes have landed one Hall of Famer (Loiola) and another who could go down as one of the greatest talents in volleyball history as their coaches. It could be argued –- and it often is –- that Hughes and Claes, both 22 years old, have more potential than any individual or team in the world, more, even, than the precocious Duda, the 19-year-old Brazilian star and 2016 FIVB Rookie of the Year.
Already, Hughes and Claes have won an AVP, the 2017 season-finale in Chicago. Already they have reached FIVB quarterfinals and landed some of the game’s top names as sponsors.
Already they have broken previous goals and established new ones.
In their first season as professionals, breaking out of the pool in international play was the goal. In their first event, a four-star in Rio, they finished fifth. Now, in just one season as full-time professionals, and a truncated one at that, seeing as they had to miss the early season events while they wrapped up what figures to be the most dominant college run for quite some time, Hughes and Claes see anything less than a podium finish as a shortcoming.
Finishes, though, are but one tangible measurement for the success of Hughes and Claes. There is no barometer through which to measure their “inspiration” to the next generation of beach volleyball players.
For now, you can see it yourself, right there, on the sidelines of court one, watching, observing, taking notes, figuring out ways to become the next Sara Hughes.
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