International Volleyball

Deahna Kraft, Lexy Denaburg make main draw in Stare Jablonki on “nothing to lose” mindset

Deahna Kraft, Lexy Denaburg make main draw in Stare Jablonki on "nothing to lose" mindset

There the scores stayed, stuck at 10-9 in the third set between two young American teams with a great deal of interest back home and no way of knowing what was happening save for the slow tick of the online scoreboard.

Yet there was no more ticking.

For 10 minutes, Deahna Kraft and Lexy Denaburg remained up 10-9 in a third set against Hailey Harward and Kylie DeBerg in the second round of the Volleyball World Stare Jablonki Challenge qualifier. Weather delay? There’d already been two, totaling nearly five hours of nerve-inducing sitting, kudos of summer Polish storms bringing thunder and lightning over the stunning lakeside venue. But this was no weather delay. This was a Lexy Denaburg delay, so to speak.

Denaburg, the winningest player in UCLA beach volleyball history, possesses a rare physicality, the type of player who, after a loss or bad practice, “would take it out in the weight room,” she once said. “That’s where I got my comfort from. It’s a good thing but it can be a bad thing when I do it way too much.”

On Thursday in Stare Jablonki, in northeast Poland, it was a bad thing for Harward and DeBerg. In the second set, Denaburg cracked a swing that caromed off the head of DeBerg, the effects of which compounded to the point that, at 10-9 in the third, DeBerg was unable to continue.

“She literally hit it as hard as she could,” said Kraft, who will be playing in her first Beach Pro Tour main draw since the Dubai Challenge of 2022. “But [Kylie] was still ripping. We couldn’t serve her.”

The fact that they were serving anyone at all is a bit of a surprise to both. On Sunday night, Kraft and Denaburg weren’t yet in the tournament, still marooned on the reserve list. At 6:30 Monday morning, Kraft “woke up before my alarm because my spidey senses were tingling.”

The spidey senses were onto something: Several teams had dropped out. They were in.

“We both agreed we had nothing to lose, only things to gain,” Kraft said. “Whether we win or lose it was a unique opportunity to grow as a team.”

Grow they did, as the 25 seed in the qualifier, surviving a three-setter against the Czech Republic’s Miroslava Dunarova and Daniela Resova in the first round (21-17, 9-21, 15-8) and then another against Harward and DeBerg in the second (13-21, 21-17, 10-9). It is Denaburg’s first main draw at a Challenge event; her only other international experience came last summer at a Futures in Seoul, Korea, where she won gold with Carly Kan.


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