USC won both the pairs and team titles at the 2015 AVCA Collegiate Sand Championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama, marking the first time a program has collected both titles since Pepperdine did so in 2012. With a defeat of Long Beach State in the championship match, the Trojans finished their season 28-0, while top USC pair Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes won the pairs title.
We have worked so hard, said head coach Anna Collier after the team victory, and when you work hard and it pays off there are no words to describe the feeling.
USC met Long Beach State in the semifinals of the team winners bracket, but since Long Beach State then defeated Pepperdine, winner of the consolation bracket, the Trojans and 49ers met for a second time in the championship match.
In the championship round, USC’s No. 2 pair, Sophie Bukovec and Alexa Strange, defeated the 49ers Anete Brinke and Tyler Jackson 21-19, 21-14. Then the No. 5 pairs battled with Jenna Belton and Bria Russ of USC defeating LBSU’s Rachel Nieto and Sammee Thomas 21-18, 17-21, 15-10. The 2-0 lead meant that the upcoming match between the No. 1 pairs could secure the championship title for USC. The Trojans top duo, Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, did just that, defeating Long Beach’s Delainey Aigner-Swesey and Chelsea Cabrajac 21-7, 21-19.
The title is the 123rd national championship title for USC.
The pairs tournament win marked the perfect end to a spectacular season for Claes and Hughes, both sophomores. The duo finished the season with an overall record of 44-3. Two of the team’s three losses came at the hands of Loyola Marymount’s Betsi Metter and Sarah Sponcil, the other to Pepperdine’s Kellie Woolever and Kelley Larsen.
In the pairs tournament final, Hughes and Claes met Metter and Sponcil for the sixth time this season, and the Trojan pair came out with the 21-12, 21-18 victory.
I think the team win was bigger for us, said Claes after the match, but this is just icing on the cake.
Claes and Hughes win marked the third year in a row that a USC team has won the pairs title. Kirby Burnham and Stevi Robinson won it in 2013, and Hughes won it as a freshman with Burnham last