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Orange County natives Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes win Huntington Beach Open

Kelly Cheng celebrates immediately after she and teammate Sara Hughes win the AVP Huntington Beach Open.
Kelly Cheng celebrates immediately after she and teammate Sara Hughes win the AVP Huntington Beach Open on Sunday.
(Mpu Dinani / AVP)
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The top-seeded team of Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes won the AVP Huntington Beach Open Pro Series beach volleyball women’s competition in two sets Sunday, winning 21-18 in each.

Trailing in the second match of the finals series 12-4, Cheng and Hughes fought back to take the lead and ultimately the winner’s trophy, defeating the fourth-seeded team of Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles.

Coming into the tour, fan favorites Hughes and Cheng were also heavily favored to take the top prize. They’ve been on a run since reuniting last fall, winning their two previous AVP meets and a gold medal at the World Pro Beach Volleyball Tour on March 26 in Tepic, Mexico.

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With the tournament returning to Huntington Beach for the first time since 2019, it was a homecoming for the Orange County natives. They talked about the emotional value of returning to where they got their start.

Kelly Cheng, left, and Sara Hughes celebrate during their victory at the AVP Huntington Beach Open.
Kelly Cheng, left, and Sara Hughes celebrate during their victory at the AVP Huntington Beach Open on Sunday.
(Mpu Dinani / AVP)

“This is our home sand,” said Hughes, who grew up in Costa Mesa and said she dreamed of playing professional volleyball since she was 8 years old.

“I learned how to play volleyball right here on these courts. So this is a very sentimental tournament to me and my family.”

Cheng began playing volleyball on indoor courts. She transitioned to sand, and started a partnership with Hughes that had its beginnings here at Huntington.

“Getting to play so close to home and running into friends and family that I didn’t expect is super special,” Cheng said.

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The pair won two NCAA championships while teammates at USC.

Andy Benesh, left, tries to bat the ball past Chaim Schalk.
Andy Benesh, left, tries to bat the ball past Chaim Schalk during the men’s championship match at the AVP Huntington Beach Open on Sunday.
(Mpu Dinani / AVP)

They next travel to Ostrava, Czech Republic, for an international meet under the FIBB banner. It’s a chance to increase their odds of being selected to the Summer Olympics in 2024.

“This year and next year we’re playing in almost every elite 16, the biggest FIBB tournaments, in the hopes of going to Paris,” Cheng said.

In the men’s competition, the fifth-seeded team of Andy Benesh and Miles Partain beat top-seeded Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk in three sets. Benesh and Partain lost the first 20-22 but won the next two 21-11, 15-12.

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