Before turning pro in June 2017, Hughes competed in sand volleyball at Southern Cal after becoming the first high school player to declare that she will play sand volleyball exclusively in college. Her freshman season she won the AVCA National Championship with partner Kirby Burnham, finishing with a 42-4 match mark including 28 straight wins. Hughes was named AVCA All-American that season (2014). As a sophomore she again won the AVCA National Championship, playing with Kelly Claes. They finished 44-3, winning the last 25 matches of the season, and Hughes once again was named as an AVCA All-American.