Sara Hughes’ volleyball journey began in high school where she excelled as a setter and right side hitter, earning first-team all-league honors three times and being named the 2012 All-Orange County Player of the Year and a Volleyball Magazine High School All-American second team. Her passion for sand volleyball led her to become the first high school player to declare that she would pursue the sport exclusively in college.
At the University of Southern California, Hughes continued to shine, showcasing her talent and earning a spot on the AVCA All-American team three consecutive years. During her freshman year, she partnered with Kirby Burnham to win the AVCA National Championship, finishing with a remarkable 42-4 match record and a streak of 28 straight victories. Her sophomore season brought another AVCA National Championship, this time alongside Kelly Claes-Cheng, with whom she compiled a 44-3 record, including a dominant stretch of 25 consecutive wins. Her dedication and skill were further recognized with another AVCA All-American selection.
Hughes’ junior year at USC marked a pinnacle of her collegiate career. She and Claes-Cheng completed a perfect season, going undefeated in matches (48-0) and dropping just one set. Their remarkable performance culminated in their third consecutive AVCA National Championship title, cementing Hughes’ status as one of the top collegiate sand volleyball players.
With a wealth of collegiate success and a deep passion for the sport, Hughes made the transition to the professional circuit in June 2017. She embarked on a professional career filled with accolades, including multiple tournament victories, world championship medals, and a career-high world ranking of No. 2. Her journey is a testament to her talent, dedication, and unwavering commitment to excellence in the world of sand volleyball.
Feburary 14, 1995
Costa Mesa, CA
Beach Volleyball Team USA 2023 FIVB World Champion
Sara Elizabeth Hughes is an American beach volleyball player. With teammate Kelly Cheng, she achieved a career-high world ranking of No. 2 in August 2023. Hughes has won six tournaments on the AVP Pro Tour and seven gold medals, one silver medal, and three bronze medals on the FIVB World Tour/Pro Beach Tour.
- #1 ranked team in USA
- #9 ranked team in the World
- FIVB World Tour, Gold Medal, Moscow
- FIVB World Tour, Bronze Medal, Portugal
- FIVB World Tour, Bronze Medal, China
- AVP Tour, New York City, 1st Place
- AVP Tour, Hermosa Beach, 1st Place
- AVP Tour, Chicago, 2nd Place
- AVP Tour, Hawaii, 2nd Place
- 2017 FIVB World Tour Rookie of the Year
- 2017 AVP Chicago Open Championships, Gold
- 2017 World Series of Beach Volleyball, Bronze Medalist
- Won the NCAA Beach Volleyball National Championship with USC
- AVCA All-American Honors for the fourth straight year
- Hughes and Claes Named VolleyballMag.com Pair of the Year
- Made her official professional debut, post graduation, at the 2017 FIVB Rio 4 Star event, tying for fifth on May 20 with Kelly Claes
- Won the first ever NCAA Beach Volleyball National Championship
- Hughes sported an undefeated match record with partner Kelly Claes
- AVCA All-American honors for the third straight year
- Named to the inaugural Pac-12 All-Conference First Team
- DiG Magazine National Player of the Year
- Produced an impressive 48-0 overall record with a 36-0 mark in dual matches, dropping just one set all season
- Pac-12 Pair of the Year with Claes
- Named an AVCA All-American
- Won the AVCA Pairs National Championship with partner Kelly Claes
- Went 44-3 overall with Claes including a 19-0 mark in tournaments to win titles in the USC Tournament, the Queen of the Beach Challenge Gold Bracket, the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge Gold Bracket, and Pac-12 Invitational Gold
- As a freshman, Hughes paired with Kirby Burnham to win the AVCA Pairs National Championship
- Named AVCA All-American
- Paired with Burnham the entire season, the duo set a new USC record with 42 wins and finished the season 42-4… went 21-4 at the top court in dual matches and was 21-0 in tournament matches
- Won the USC Pairs Tournament (Mar. 15), the Rainbow Wahine Spring Challenge (Mar. 22), the USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge (Apr. 13), and the Pac-12 Invitational (Apr. 20
- Regarded as the top sand volleyball recruit in the 2013 class
- Selected to the 2013 Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 list and became first high school player to declare that she will only play sand volleyball collegiately