Beach Pro Tour 2022 - News

Cheng Hughes

Cheng and Hughes played 11 international tournaments together between 2015 and 2018

Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes spent the last four years as opponents but will be on the same side of the net again from next month on as the Americans have decided to reunite as they target qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Now 27, Cheng and Hughes formed the winningest duo in the history of the American collegiate beach volleyball system, securing national titles in 2016 and 2017 and winning more than 100 consecutive matches during their time together at the University of Southern California (USC).

The two also had some success as partners at the international level, winning a bronze medal at the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball U19 World Championship and appearing in ten FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour events and the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship between 2015 and 2018, when they split right at the start of the season.

After four years, they think it’s time to share the same side of the court again and will compete side-by-side for the first time in their second stint as partners in a Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge tournament in Torquay, Australia, from November 23-27.

“We came together and had a really great conversation,” Hughes told NBC Sports. “I think Kelly and I both had pull towards each other, and kind of knew that it was just the right time again. And so it was a mutual decision of like, yes, we’re getting together, and we’re just really excited. It feels like the right time. The past is past. We’re just moving forward.”

During their time with different partners, their careers went in sort of opposite directions. While Hughes had a promising start with Summer Ross but struggled after her partner picked up a back injury in 2019, and had as many as four different partners in 2021, Cheng thrived in a short period of time with Brittany Hochevar, but arguably had the best moments of her career with Sarah Sponcil, with whom she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and won her first international gold medals.

Since the start of 2022, Cheng was playing with Betsi Flint while Hughes had Kelley Kolinske as her partner. Both teams had some success on the Beach Pro Tour, with Cheng and Flint triumphing at the Hamburg Elite16 in August and Hughes and Kolinske taking gold at the Itapema Challenge back in April.

“I think we both came into our own athletes, separately,” Cheng reflected. “We want a gold medal in Paris, so we’re kind of working backwards. In that regard, in our training, what are our strengths and our weaknesses? How can we kind of bring other things? How can we do that repeatedly well? Because I think the top teams in the world are consistent.”

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The two will be coached by Jordan Cheng, Kelly’s husband.