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Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes win beach volleyball worlds semifinal between top American teams

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes

October 12, 2023, Tlaxcala, Mexico: Kelly Cheng (L) and Sara Hughes of USA compete against team Latvia during the Beach Volleyball World Cup Women’s Quarterfinals. (Photo by Essene Hernandez/ Eyepix Group) (Photo credit should read Essene Hernandez/ Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Future Publishing via Getty Images

Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes rallied past Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss in an all-American semifinal at the world beach volleyball championships.

Cheng and Hughes prevailed 18-21, 21-19, 15-13 to become the first U.S. women’s team that didn’t have Kerri Walsh Jennings or April Ross to make an Olympic or world final since 1999.

They play defending world champions Ana Patricia and Duda of Brazil in Sunday’s final in Mexico.

The semi between Cheng and Hughes and Kloth and Nuss was a match to determine the best U.S. beach team.

Before worlds, Kloth and Nuss moved one spot ahead of Cheng and Hughes in world rankings (second place behind Ana Patricia and Duda) and global Olympic qualifying (third place). Cheng and Hughes and Kloth and Nuss are extremely likely to grab the two U.S. Olympic spots for Paris.

Cheng (née Claes) and Hughes, who as collegians at USC in the mid-2010s were considered the next great U.S. team, reunited last fall after four years apart.

They won their first four tournaments together through January’s FIVB World Tour Finals.

Then Kloth and Nuss, who were teammates at LSU, broke through in the spring and summer. Once 0-4 against Cheng and Hughes, Kloth and Nuss won their last two meetings and went into worlds as runner-up at the two most recent top-level international events.

Cheng and Hughes were eliminated before the semifinals of their last three international events before worlds. Now that they’ve re-established themselves as America’s best, they get a chance to vault atop the world.