While most indoor volleyball players stick to the gym to hone their skills, Garfield’s Deahna Kraft prefers the beach.
No, it’s not about relaxation. For Kraft, it’s all competition.
“Something about going to wake up every morning by the beach,” Kraft said. “The sun, the surf in the background; it’s an amazing sport to play.”
Kraft spent her summer competing in two-on-two beach volleyball tournaments in California, and now it’s paying off. The senior leads the Metro League with 280 kills, and she averages 4.7 kills per set. Garfield are undefeated in league and ranked No. 6 in the state.
The Bulldogs’ ultimate goal is to get to the state tournament, which they missed by just two matches last season.
Garfield head coach Jake Putnam credits beach volleyball’s versatility as a key to Kraft’s success indoors.
“[Beach volleyball] also allows you to improve your court awareness and volleyball IQ, and we’ve definitely seen that from her,” Putnam said. “Offensively her ability to mix her shots in with swinging in a different variety of attacking locations for her kills. And just her ball control.”
Putnam was quick to say Kraft is one of the best players he’s ever coached, and has gotten better off the court as well.
“She’s grown in maturity and understanding what motivates players,” Putnam said.
This is Kraft’s second season in full force with the Bulldogs after a knee injury put her on the bench for her sophomore season.
Kraft, who was born in Hawaii and moved to Seattle when she was nine, first played beach volleyball with her family growing up. Her family would play recreationally on the Whidbey Island tide flats during summers, but it wasn’t until Kraft’s freshman year that she started playing competitively.
After a beach volleyball camp at Pepperdine in 2014, Kraft hooked up with Snohomish libero Cyrene Hertzog for a month-long tour of California sand tournaments this summer.
“We got challenged a lot,” Kraft said. “We thought we would go down there and it would be the same [as Washington], but it wasn’t.”
They played in over 20 tournaments, and battled new court conditions, including ocean wind, and deep sand. However, pushing through that uncomfortability made Kraft a better player both on the sand and indoor.
Because there’s only two players on the court, each player gets a lot more touches on the ball.
“You take a lot of control on the court,” Kraft said. “I like to be able to control the game at my pace, and sand volleyball allows to you do that.”
Kraft is committed to play sand volleyball at Pepperdine next year. The coaching was a huge factor in Kraft’s decision, as Pepperdine Asst. Coach Marcio Sicoli has tutored Olympic beach volleyball players Misty May and Kerri Walsh.
“The program’s awesome, and the sense of community, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Kraft said.
For now, it’s all about indoor at Garfield. The Bulldogs clinched the No. 1 seed in the Sound/Valley divisions, and have their eye on the prize.
“It’s starting to be more realistic for us to go to state,” Kraft said. “I’m really hoping to go to state, do well in it, and at least hold our place or do better.”