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USC Beach Volleyball All-Americans Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes Win World Championship Gold

TLAXCALA, Mexico – USC beach volleyball All-Americans Kelly Cheng (Fullerton, Calif.) and Sara Hughes (Costa Mesa, Calif.) claimed gold medals at the 14th Beach Volleyball World Championships on Sunday, Oct. 15. As a result of their win, the U.S. secures a berth into the women’s tournament at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

  Co-coached by USC associate head coach Gustavo Rocha, the Trojan duo secured their place in the annals of beach volleyball as only the fifth U.S. women’s pair to win the world title and the first since another all-USC pair of All-Americans April Ross (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Jennifer Kessy (San Clemente, Calif.) won in Norway in 2009. Former USC beach assistant coach Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won three straight world titles in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

  Cheng-Hughes cemented their spot atop the medal podium with a straight-set win over the world’s No. 1-ranked pair and defending world champions of Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Eduarda (Duda) Santos Lisboa of Brazil, 21-16, 24-22, in the gold-medal match. It was the fourth time the two pairs met in a high-stakes final. Cheng-Hughes got a win in the 2022 FIVB Finals tournament in Doha, Qatar; and then won gold at the Tepic, Mexico, Elite 16 tour stop in 2023. Ana Patricia and Duda claimed gold in Gstaad (2023) and won a bronze medal match-up with Cheng-Hughes in Brazil.

  In an all-USA semifinal, the Trojan alumnae went three sets with world No. 3 Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss from LSU and got the win, 18-21, 21-12, 15-13. The Tiger alumnae won their third-place match and finished with bronze medals at the World Championships. In the quarterfinals, Cheng-Hughes defeated Brazil’s 14th-seeded duo of Tainá Silva Bigi and Victoria Lopes Pereira Tosta in straight sets, 21-14, 21-16.

  Cheng and Hughes went three sets in their round of 16 match against 18th-seeded Tina Graudina—a four-time USC All-American—and partner Anastasija Samoilova of Latvia and advanced, 19-21, 21-16, 15-11. It was also three sets for Cheng-Hughes in the round of 32 but the American-Trojan duo defeated Austria’s 34th-seeded tandem of Dorina Klinger and Ronja Klinger, 27-25, 19-21, 15-9.

  In pool play, Cheng and Hughes went 2-1. They defeated Mexico’s pair of Esperanza Katherine Albarran Castro and Yeray Yamilet Vidaurrazaga Blanco in dominant fashion, 21-4, 21-10; and then got a 21-17, 21-12 win over Germany’s Karla Borger and Sandra Ittlinger. Despite taking a 21-15, 24-22 loss against Brazil’s 22nd-seeded duo of Agatha Bednarczuk and Rebecca Cavalcante Barbosa Silva, Cheng-Hughes advanced directly to the round of 32. 

  Among other Trojan women in the World Championships, the 16th-seeded all-USC pair of All-Americans Terese Cannon (Pittsford, N.Y.) and current student-athlete Megan Kraft (San Diego, Calif.) and 15th-seeded USC All-American Julia Scoles (Mooresville, N.C.) and partner Betsi Flint (Loyola Marymount) each advanced to the round of 16. Graudina and Samoilova also advanced to the round of 16. All-American Hailey Harward (Phoenix, Ariz.) and partner Alix Klineman won one of their pool matches.

  In the men’s tournament, USC standout Andy Benesh (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) and partner Miles Partain (UCLA) reached the quarterfinals. Former Trojan Tri Bourne (Honolulu, Hawai’i) and partner Chaim Schalk didn’t win in pool play and did not advance to the knockout rounds.

  Under fifth-year head coach Dain Blanton, the USC beach volleyball team captured its third straight NCAA Championship (fifth NCAA title and sixth national title) in 2023. The Women of Troy finished the year ranked No. 1 and had an overall record of 32-5. USC added two more AVCA All-Americans to its history books with the third selection for Megan Kraft and the first-career honor for Delaynie Maple. Kraft was named the Pac-12’s Player of the Year while she and Maple earned Pac-12 Pair of the Year laurels. Both were named to the Pac-12 All-Conference Team and were joined by Madison Shields and Madison White. Blanton finished his fourth season with a 105-15 career record and Gustavo Rocha was chosen as the AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year. 

  For more information on the USC beach volleyball team, a complete schedule, and results, please visit Fans of the Women of Troy can follow the team on Instagram and on X @USCBeach.

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