When the top ranked Badgers volleyball team takes the court looking to win their first match of the season on Friday night against Purdue, they’ll do so with the help of an unprecedented addition for the program- Pepperdine grad transfer Deahna Kraft.
Kraft became an anomaly in the college volleyball world last November when she became one of the first collegiate beach volleyball players to complete a graduate transfer to finish her career on the indoor court. It’s not uncommon for the switch to be made- after all the two sports are fundamentally very similar- but often it’s made by indoor players switching to the beach seeking the warm weather or slower game pace. Kraft wasn’t daunted by the small number of women making her move however- she was motivated by them.
“And then I heard a couple girls [were going from indoor to beach], and I wondered what that would be like, and thought maybe I can do that too.”
It won’t be a switch that will come without challenges. Though nominally the same game, there are certainly some key differences that make the transition no small task- such as the adjustment to playing with five teammates on the court, rather than just one.
“On the beach, you’re just consulting with one person. So you guys become really close, and you understand how that person acts in a lot of different situations,” Kraft said. “I think in beach you have to get to know the person a little more and have some more emotional IQ on how to address them.”
Another notable change will come in the physical preparation. While both sports require a tremendous amount of training, the specific areas of the game in which that training comes to fruition are different:
“There’s definitely more conditioning involved [for beach], just because playing on the sand is really gnarly. And a lot of it’s very physically demanding, because you’re playing up to 30 sets in pretty deep sand. So it’s a little more conditioning heavy- indoor is a lot of conditioning but you don’t need it as much. But you definitely have to get big and hit hard in indoor, whereas on the beach, you can use more shots in order to score. Indoor is definitely a little more power.”
Thankfully, the transition should be made a little easier for Kraft due to her familiarity with both the sport and the program at Wisconsin. She actually played indoor for most of her pre-college career, and made the switch to beach volleyball for college.
The Seattle, Wash. native had previously made recruiting visits to Madison, and credits the openness and accessibility of coach Kelly Sheffield and the rest of the coaching staff with aiding her return to the indoor game.
“Kelly believed in me, and that was a big reason why I wanted to go to Wisconsin. Some other coaches I talked to were like, ‘wow, beach to indoor, I don’t know if you can do that,’ and Kelly, you know, expressed a little concern of it, but he never was like ‘you can’t do this’, and he never really put that doubt in the back of my head. [The Wisconsin staff] said ‘if you want to do this, it will be hard, but we think you can do it, and you have the ability to do it.’ I don’t want to go places where I’ll have doubts that I can compete or get to that level. I want to play. [The coaches] care, and they’re always so accessible. If I want extra reps, if I want video, if I need something else, they’re there for me whenever. And I just think that’s so special.”
Kraft, who’s received both first-team All-West Coast Conference and second-team All-American honors in her beach career, projects as an outside hitter or a defensive specialist when taking the court for Wisconsin. She joins the program with both lofty goals and expectations for the upcoming season:
“I mean, as a team, you’re always going for that national championship, I would be lying if I didn’t bring that up, being Big Ten champions and National Champions is always at the back of our minds, I think those are big team goals of ours. Personally, I just want to contribute and push the team to be the best they can be.I just think contributing to the team in any way I can and like, being there for my teammates. I’ve kind of learned a lot throughout my career when I lost my senior season. I realized that like trophies and the recognition is amazing, But what’s even more amazing are those memories you have with the team and fighting with the team for a win.”
Catch Kraft and the Badgers in action Friday night at 5:30pm when they look to defend their top ranking against the No. 12 Purdue Boilermakers at the UW Fieldhouse on Big Ten Network.