Torrey Pines’ Megan Kraft thriving outdoors at USC
She helps USC to NCAA beach volleyball title with win over UCLA
When Megan Kraft chose to continue her beach volleyball career at USC, she figured success would come at some point.
She had no idea it would come so quickly — for herself as well as the team.
As a freshman, the former Torrey Pines High star teamed with Tina Graudina in the No. 1 slot for the Trojans, leading USC to the NCAA championship with a win over UCLA in the finals in Gulf Shores, Ala.
“I knew USC had a really good program, is a great academic school, and hoped we’d win,” said Kraft, an accounting major who chose USC over UCLA and Stanford.
“USC was a gut feeling,” Kraft said. “Those are all amazing schools, but I felt most comfortable at USC.
“USC is two hours from home, the facilities are amazing and the connections you make with your professors will go far in the future.
“College volleyball was much different than I expected. Our team was stacked, so practices were very intense.”
USC finished the season 30-4 and Kraft was 30-3, the only USC player with 30 or more wins.
Kraft and Graudina were 15-1 overall, losing just two sets. Both were named first-team All-Americans.
They also were named Pac-12 Pair of the Year, while Kraft was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
Kraft, however, wasn’t just a monster on the beach.
She was Avocado League Player of the Year in 2019 as Torrey Pines won the California State Indoor Championship.
“We had a great team, a super-solid team at Torrey Pines,” the 6-foot Kraft said. “Winning the state championship with my friends was so cool.”
The indoor game was something Kraft did for her school and friends.
Beach was her calling.
“I stopped playing club indoor after my sophomore season because I knew beach was my game in college,” Kraft said.
“Beach is such a cool sport, the wind, the sun, the sand all come into play.”
The NCAA has 60 Division I beach volleyball teams.
USC, coached by Olympic gold medalist Dain Blanton, beat Cal Poly, Florida State, Loyola Marymount and UCLA en route to the championship.
“The championships started on a Friday, but we got to Alabama on a Monday,” Kraft said. “Dain wanted us to get used to the weather.
“It was super humid and then there was a big thunder storm.
“But we dodged the rain and the storm seemed to clear out the humidity.”
With a break from school this summer, Kraft just returned from an AVP Tournament in San Antonio and has other events lined up in Louisiana, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
There are also summer trips to China, Thailand and Gaum for USA Volleyball U19 events with partner Delaynie Maple.
“When you start playing at the international level, you realize how many good volleyball players there are,” Kraft said. “And the more you travel, you get to see the different styles they play around the world.
“I love representing the USA. And yes, the Olympics are the end goal.”
More beach volleyball
UCLA’s Savvy Simo (Torrey Pines) earned All-American honors after a 28-8 season with partner Lexy Denaberg. Jaden Whitmarsh (Torrey Pines) went 29-6 for the Bruins. Megan Muret (La Costa Canyon) finished the season 23-8.
• Iya Lindahl (Patrick Henry) played in the No. 1 position for Loyola Marymount and finished her career with a 65-31 record. The 65 wins rank second all-time at LMU.
• Charlie Ekstrom (Point Loma) finished the season 18-16 at Stanford. A junior, she has a career 36-37 record.
• Alexis Filippone (Torrey Pines) finished the season 13-16 at Pepperdine and was named second-team all-conference.
• Elizabeth Cudai (Sage Creek) finished her career as one of the top players at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Md.
Shortstop Nick Allen (Francis Parker) is on USA Baseball’s 28-man Olympic Qualifying roster.
Team USA is made up of professional players and includes former Padres Logan Forsythe, Jon Jay, Matt Kemp, Marc Rzepczynski and Edwin Jackson.
The roster will be cut Sunday from 28 to 26. Team USA, ranked No. 2 in the world, will start play in the Americas Qualifying Tournament on Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. In Group A with the USA is Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The top two teams advance to the Super Round against the best from Group B, which includes Canada, Columbia, Cuba and Venezuela. The winner advances to the Tokyo Olympics, joining Japan, Korea, Israel and Mexico, which have already qualified.
Allen is hitting .276 with 13 RBIs after 13 games at Double-A Midland in the A’s chain.
Right-hander Braden Olthoff (El Camino/Palomar College) is 5-3 with a 3.89 ERA at Tulane. In 712/3 innings, he has 81 strikeouts with only 11 walks.
• After a late start because of an injury, Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon) has played in 25 games for 39-13 Vanderbilt and is hitting .284 with three homers and 10 RBIs. He hasn’t pitched this season for the Commodores.
• Derek Diamond (Ramona) is 3-4 with a save and a 5.61 ERA at Ole Miss. He has 68 strikeouts in 61 innings.
• Joey Magrisi (Torrey Pines), who started his career at Cal State Fullerton, is now at College of Southern Nevada. The right-hander is 9-4 with a 4.90 ERA. He has five complete games and three shutouts. In 882/3 innings, he has walked just 25 with 120 strikeouts.
Marissa Moore (Mt. Carmel) finished a four-year career at Rhodes College in Memphis as one of the school’s top all-time players. The outfielder played 139 games, hitting .332, finishing with 132 hits, 55 runs and 85 RBIs. In 462 career plate appearances, Moore struck out just 18 times.
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