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Mater Dei's Hughes is girls volleyball player of the year
Sara Hughes had a modest beginning in the sport of volleyball.
“I was always dragged to my brother and sister’s volleyball games and I was always watching them,” she said. “I was always peppering with my mom during their practices, and when I was eight I started going down to the beach, every Tuesday and Thursday, with a coach who helped me a lot.”
Fast forward to the present, and now Hughes, a senior at Mater Dei, is headed to USC to join the sand volleyball team.
She started in club volleyball at 10 and she turned into a four-year varsity starter for the Monarchs
“She’s played every position at the school the last two years,” Monarchs coach Adam Cutrell said. “She’s developed into a good setter and a really good opposite (hitter), but more importantly, she’s a great leader.”
For all of her accomplishments this season, Hughes has been selected the Register’s 2012 girls volleyball player of the year.
She follows in the footsteps of her brother Connor, who was the Register’s boys volleyball player of the year in 2009. Her sister Lauren also played at Mater Dei.
“Everybody turns to her for energy and excitement,” Cutrell added. “I love the fact that she knows how to win and she knows how to lose. She’s a good sport and a great kid.
“She’s a great ambassador for the school and the program. I’ve never seen a high school player with the cult following that she has among kids. This year, we needed her to shine and she did.”
The 5-foot-11 Hughes had a busy 2012, as she balanced her high school and beach duties.
This year, she finished fourth at the FIVB Junior World Championships, seventh at the NORCECA Beach tour stop in Chula Vista, ninth at the FIVB Youth World Championship in Cyprus and 25th at the Manhattan Open.
She also competed at the FIVB Thailand Open.
She made her season debut for the Monarchs one night after she returned from Canada for the junior beach championships.
All she did in that match was record eight kills, 30 assists and 11 digs.
“I’m used to it,” she said of her busy schedule. “I’ve always run a 6-2 (offense) in club and I love setting and hitting. I rather do both than one, and I enjoyed it.”
Hughes says her performance in beach volleyball helped make her a better player indoors.
“Ultimately, I think it helps my game,” she said. “When I come back from beach, I feel like I can read (the play) better, like where the hitters are going to hit. I can jump higher because I’m on a different surface.”
She feels comfortable with her decision to stick with beach volleyball in college.
“It was one of the hardest decisions that I had to make,” she said. “But I enjoy beach volleyball, maybe a little bit more than indoor, and that’s (the beach) is where I want to have a future.
“The atmosphere, being outside and maybe it is a little bit harder (than indoor) because there is only one person beside you, and you have to build a relationship with that person … I love it.”