In a frenetic span of 120 days, Kelly Claes was able to accomplish what the vast majority of the beach-volleyball world would be satisfied with in a career.

With partner Sara Hughes, Claes won a fourth-consecutive national championship for USC and then the USAV Collegiate Beach Championships. They stunned 2016 Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst to claim a bronze medal in the World Series of Beach Volleyball. Then they won an AVP title at the season finale in Chicago, which came with the added bonus of boosted prize money, money they were — not shackled by the NCAA — able to accept. Then Claes even won a NORCECA qualifier – playing defense with Lauren Fendrick.

And Claes isn’t done yet. Not even close.

“I want to be the best blocker in the world,” she told us repeatedly throughout this edition of SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, presented by Marriott Vacation Club Rentals.

She’s not far off, despite playing professionally for less than one full season (she had to skip last spring’s AVP’s opener in Huntington Beach). While she and Hughes, the FIVB Rookie of the Year, finished the collegiate season No. 1 in the country and national champs for the fourth straight season, they also finished No. 16 internationally and sixth on the AVP.

On the podcast, Claes discusses her remarkable partnership with Hughes, which includes a record 103-match collegiate winning streak, and what she learned by playing with Fendrick and All-Pro MVP April Ross in an FIVB event in China.

“You can only learn so much from one person,” she says. “I feel like reaching into another hat is always helpful. I feel like I learned from both of them and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It was a really cool experience.”

With a little less than three months to go before the opening event of the 2018 season, in The Hague, Claes and Hughes are back on the sand. Claes discusses what her training looks like, what events she’s looking forward to in the 2018 season, her aspirations both immediate and long term, and how she plans on developing into the best blocker in the world.

Where you can find Claes:
Twitter: @kellyclaes3

Facebook: Kelly Claes
Instagram: Kellyclaes3
Previously on SANDCAST:
Ryan Doherty, the Most Interesting Man in Beach Volleyball
The new Tri Bourne: Buddha Tri Bourne


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