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‘Our awesome God’ lifts national champion


DEDICATION: Beach volleyball player Megan Kraft, a senior at the University of Southern California, is committed to her sport -- but even more so to her Catholic faith. (Credit: Courtesy Megan Kraft)

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SAN DIEGO — Megan Kraft has set her sights on the 2028 Summer Olympics.

The 21-year-old beach volleyball phenom not only has the talent and drive needed to achieve that goal. She also has a strong Catholic faith that keeps her grounded in the highly competitive world that she inhabits.

“It is very easy for me to get caught up in comparing myself to other athletes, feeling like I’m not doing enough, wanting to make the people around me proud,” said Kraft, a senior at the University of Southern California. “But, at the end of the day, when I can go to Mass and be reminded of our awesome God, everything feels simple and I’m hit with so much perspective on how lucky I am.”

Born in San Diego, Kraft grew up in a Catholic family with a twin brother and an older half-sister.

She began playing club indoor volleyball at age 10 and beach volleyball at age 13, ultimately deciding to dedicate herself exclusively to the latter.

“On the beach, it is just you and your partner out there — no subs, nowhere to hide,” she said, contrasting it with indoor volleyball, which has six players on each side of the net. “If you’re in a rut, you have to get yourself out of it very quickly, if you want to win.”

And Kraft has won. A lot.

Among the highlights of her athletic career, she is a three-time NCAA national champion and a three-time All-American. She was PAC-12 Freshman of the Year in 2021 and Player of the Year in 2023; she was also half of the Pair of the Year in 2021 with teammate Tina Graudina and in 2023 with Delaynie Maple.

Kraft has represented the United States at more than 20 international events. She won the 2021 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Beach Volleyball U19 World Championship with Maple and the 2023 Hamburg Queen of the Court tournament with Emily Stockman.

She plans to continue playing beach volleyball professionally after her graduation from USC, where she is currently on the Dean’s List and working on a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

“I want to play beach volleyball as long as my body will allow it, because it truly brings me so much joy,” said Kraft, who qualified for her first Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Tournament at age 16.

Baptized at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Mission Hills, Kraft received her First Communion and the sacrament of confirmation at St. Therese of Carmel Parish in Carmel Valley, which she considers her home parish when she is in San Diego.

She feels fortunate that, unlike many young people, she has “never been tempted to put my faith on the back-burner.”

During her freshman year at USC, she was invited to join a Bible study for female athletes. Since accepting that invitation, she has continued to participate each year.

Kraft attends Sunday Mass at the USC Caruso Catholic Center, which serves the university’s Catholic students. She also attends daily Mass about three times a week and Eucharistic adoration once a week.

She said, “I find that going to the chapel every day, if I can, really helps me think clearly and gives me a perspective of gratitude for every day I get to live.”

When she has traveled abroad for international tournaments, Kraft has sought out nearby Catholic churches, experiencing firsthand that the Mass is “the same in every church around the world, even if it is in a different language.”

From her faith, she draws solace and strength.

“The biggest thing I struggle with is anxiety and a desire to please every single person,” she said, “and, with my faith, I am able to step back, think logically, and remember that, in the end, everything I do should be done to glorify the Lord.”

She added, “During the hard workouts and times where my body is saying no, I feel strongly that I am able to push through, because of the mental strength I have from my faith.”

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