After a nearly-five year partnership with Kelly Claes, Sara Hughes has decided to split from her long-time beach partner to team up with Summer Ross for the remainder of the season.
Ross and former partner Brooke Sweat took home the bronze medal at the 2018 Fort Lauderdale Major this past month but that could not salvage their partnership. Hughes/Ross have already begun training together in California for the upcoming four-star FIVB World Tour event in Xiamen, China from April 18-22.
The two have already played in one tournament together back in 2012 at the U21 World Championships in Halifax, Canada where they finished in fourth place following a loss to the eventual champions Nina Betschart/Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland in the semifinals.
Ross is a strong veteran on the World Tour as she has been competing since 2011 when she was 18 years old. In her 7 years, Ross has sported 9 different partners, winning a silver medal with Emily Day in 2013. Her most recent partner, Sweat, was a formation at the beginning of the 2017 season, where they competed in 11 international events and their best result being their bronze medal finish at Fort Lauderdale this year.
Hughes, on the other hand, was a rookie on the tour last season, having played in just 13 World Tour events, 11 of which were with Claes. Hughes/Claes were an unstoppable duo at the University of Southern California, where they won four straight collegiate volleyball national championships and recorded a 103 win streak. The tandem also won bronze at the U19 and U21 World Championships in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The final match that Claes/Hughes competed in together was in their loss to Ross/Sweat in the Round of 16 at the Fort Lauderdale Major. At that tournament, Ross was named the best scorer, best attacker and best blocker of the event.
Hughes/Ross will be coached by Jose Loiola. It is uncertain who Sweat or Claes will team up with for the remainder of the season.