Five days after the Pepperdine Waves beach volleyball team concluded another successful season, two members of the squad continued spiking and volleying their way to victories on the sand.
Sophomore Brook Bauer and junior Deahna Kraft paired up and won silver at the USA Volleyball Collegiate Beach Championships in Hermosa Beach on May 8. The Waves duo won five matches in the 46-team tournament’s pool play and single elimination bracket before falling in the title match.
Kraft said she and Bauer’s performance in the beach volleyball showcase was a good end to the season.
“We were very happy with silver but, obviously, we are competitors,” she said. “We wanted to win gold.”
The two 20-year-olds’ fruitful foray into USA Volleyball’s event followed a 2019 campaign in which the Waves composed a 20-11 record and were ranked in the top seven nationally each week. Pepperdine’s season ended on May 3 when it lost opening-day matches to Louisiana State University and the University of Southern California in the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Bauer said taking losses in Alabama was not how the Waves wanted to end the season, so she and Kraft sprang at the chance to play in the USA Volleyball championships when asked.
“To be able to come back and represent our team another time was awesome,” Bauer said. “The fact that we were able to finish the season in a different way for our team—I think it meant a lot for everyone. We were stoked to do that.”
Kraft said after the NCAA championships she wanted to play more volleyball.
“I was biting at the bit,” she said. “I wanted to compete more.”
Bauer and Kraft had only been paired together seven times out of the145 pairings Pepperdine put on the beach during the season. They had a 3-4 record, while Bauer and her normal partner Heidi Dyer, who graduated recently, had a 14-7 record and Kraft and her regular partner, junior Gigi Hernandez, had a 13-8 record.
Dyer and Hernandez were both out of the country the weekend of the USA Volleyball Collegiate Beach Championships.
Bauer and Kraft had already discussed playing in tournaments together this summer after having competed last summer in the Seattle AVP as a pair, said Bauer.
“We knew the camaraderie we had together was super fun but also competitive,” she said.
Kraft said heading into the USA Volleyball spectacle, the two had three practices with Waves coaches and discussed how they would work together. She said the quick turnaround time from one championship event to the next probably benefited them.
“We really had to get to know each other and play together in a short amount of time,” Kraft said. “Sometimes that urgency makes you perform better because you are over-communicating, over-doing everything to make sure you are successful.”
They were successful in Hermosa Beach against some of the top collegiate pairs in the nation.
In pool play, the Waves defeated Florida State University’s Payton Caffrey and Morgan Chacon with a pair of 21-12 sets and Georgia State’s Eden Hawes and Madelyn Delmonte, 21-14, 21-12, in pool play.
Bauer and Kraft triumphed over another duo from FSU, Brooke Kuhlman and Avery Poppinga, 21-12, 23-25, 15-12, at the beginning of the elimination round. The Waves then downed Long Beach State’s Megan Kruidhof and Mariana Molina with two 21-11 sets, before beating Loyola Marymount’s Emma Doud and Savannah Slattery, 17-21, 21-16, 15-9, to advance to the tournament’s title game.
Bauer said the win over Long Beach State was their best showing.
“We played solid volleyball,” she said. “We were both clicking at the same time. We were in the zone.”
Bauer and Kraft were defeated by defending champions Claire Coppola and Kristen Nuss of LSU in the championship match, 18-21, 23-21, 12-15.
Kraft said after the match she and her teammate discussed what they could have done better in the three title sets, but she said overall, they played good volleyball throughout the event. Kraft enjoyed how they made gutsy plays at the right times.
“Every game was fun because of that—us learning to play the game freely and using our volleyball IQ,” she said.
Bauer and Kraft were among the six Waves who received postseason recognition. Bauer and Dyer were American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American first team members. Bauer was selected as the West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year and named to the conference’s first team along with Kraft and Dyer. Skylar Caputo, a graduate this year, and Hernandez were placed on the WCC second team and Simone Priebe was named to the WCC All Freshman squad.
Kraft called Bauer an exceptional athlete.
“Having someone that works so hard running behind you, running down shots, is helpful for a blocker,” she said. “When you turn around and see a defender giving her all that gives you confidence in what you are doing.”
Bauer said Kraft is a skilled player with a lot of energy.
“It is a ton of fun to be next to such a vocal player,” she said. “She is very dynamic to play next to.”
Kraft said the biggest key to their success in the USA Volleyball event was their confidence in each other.
“We both have a lot of heart for the game and a lot of heart for winning,” she said. “We trusted each other and loved every minute of it.”