Pac-12 Beach Volleyball leads nation with six AVCA All-Americans

Maya Dondonyan

SAN FRANCISCO - Six Pac-12 Beach Volleyball standouts earned All-America honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on Wednesday, May 11, the most selections for any conference in the country.

USC juniors Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, ARIZONA juniors Madison Witt and McKenna Witt, and UCLA freshmen Megan McNamara and Nicole McNamara comprised six spots on the AVCA's 16-member All-America team. All six were Pac-12 First Team All-Conference honorees with Claes being named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Megan McNamara chosen Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

Claes and Hughes, the 2016 Pac-12 Pair of the Year as conference pairs champions, compiled a perfect 48-0 mark in all competitions this spring to lead the Trojans to a 34-2 final record and the inaugural NCAA Championship crown on May 8. It marks the second and third career All-America recognitions, respectively, for Claes and Hughes, who also teamed to win the 2015 AVCA Pairs national championship and will take a 73-match winning streak into the 2017 season.

The Witt twins won their first 17 matches and reached the Pac-12 Pairs Bracket final en route to a 26-4 overall mark at the Wildcats' top spot, helping ARIZONA (20-7) to its first 20-win campaign in program history. The McNamara twins compiled an 18-12 record as the top tandem for UCLA (22-7), including an impressive 4-1 showing to help the Bruins to third place at the NCAA Championship.

In the five-year history of the AVCA collegiate beach volleyball All-America awards, Pac-12 programs are second nationally with 17 total selections (USC 10, Arizona 4, UCLA 3), trailing only the WCC (19).

The AVCA also announced its final Top 10 ranking of the 2016 season on Tuesday with inaugural NCAA champion USC claiming the No. 1 spot followed by UCLA at No. 3 and ARIZONA at No. 6.

The Pac-12 also led the nation with nine student-athletes recognized in DiG Magazine's end-of-season All-America awards. USC's Hughes was tabbed the publication's Player of the Year, while UCLA's McNamara twins were chosen Freshmen of the Year.  DiG's All-America First Team featured USC classmates Claes and Alexa Strange and ARIZONA's Witt twins, while the Second Team had UCLA senior Kamila Tan and USC junior Sophie Bukovec. The Trojans led the way at No. 1 in the final DiG Top 20 poll, followed by No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 ARIZONA and No. 16 CALIFORNIA (17-10), with WASHINGTON (5-6) also receiving votes.

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