Four New Wildcats Join Volleyball in Summer

June 17, 2013

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Fall classes are months way and four new Kansas State Wildcats are already on campus for summer school and training with the volleyball team in preparing for the World University Games and the 2013 season this fall.

K-State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz has welcomed four new players to the team this summer with three freshmen and one transfer all enrolling in summer school to begin training with the team early. Katie Reininger transferred to K-State from St. Mary’s and freshman Brookelyn Langhaim, who signed a National Letter of Intent in November, also is on campus already. Two more freshmen, Mattie Batchelder and Kersten Kober have enrolled in summer school and add depth to the back row as defensive specialists for the Wildcats.

“These young women are all wonderful additions to our program in all ways,” Fritz said. “These student-athletes are young people with tremendous character and a commitment to their future development as student-athletes. All of our new players are very committed and hard working people. They are working hard to not only play volleyball in the way we want them to play, but also integrating themselves into the team in a positive and productive way.”

Reininger is a middle blocker from Colorado Springs, Colo. This past season at St. Mary’s she averaged 1.55 kills per set as a freshman, and defensively she added 0.77 blocks per set. Reininger saw success against some of the top teams in the nation as a freshman in 2012. She posted five kills against traditional powerhouse Stanford in the first match of the season and would go on to tally 11 kills on a .562 hitting percentage against Oregon, a team that eventually fell in the NCAA Championship match to Texas. Reininger also had 11 kills in a win over No. 11 BYU.

“Katie brings a great deal of enthusiasm, experience, leadership and talent to our team. She is the epitome of a team player and someone who has a knack for making the people around her better,” Fritz said. “We followed Katie a great deal throughout her prep career, and she went on to have an excellent rookie year at St. Mary’s. She is familiar with our training philosophy and playing systems.”

Fritz also said Reininger will be among the players traveling to Russia this summer for the World University Games in July.

Coming to K-State was an easy decision for Reininger, she said. Fritz made the decision easier and knowing the systems K-State runs already was a bonus as St. Mary’s is very similar offensively to what Fritz runs. Perhaps one highlight for Reininger has been being at a larger school after coming from St. Mary’s where enrollment is less than 4,000 students at the small private school.

“I really love the pride here of K-State, walking around and seeing purple everywhere,” Reininger said. “There’s purple everywhere! And just being a part of that big experience, I’m excited to go to a football game.”

Langhaim is a freshman outside hitter from Highland, Utah, where she saw a great deal of success on the high school and club levels. This fall her high school team finished second at the state tournament, and five of her teammates also signed NLI’s to play collegiate volleyball. The right side hitter adds height to the position as she stands at 6 feet 3 inches.

“Brookelyn is an outstanding athlete with a great deal of upside. She is a focused and competitive,” Fritz said. “Her primary identity as a volleyball player is as a blocker right now, but she has the ability and potential to do much more. We were drawn to her because of her size, athleticism and physical abilities, but she has continued to impress us with her commitment to her development as a person and a player.  She comes from a close knit, athletic family and she will have the opportunity to integrate herself into the team quickly, as she will be one of the 12 team members on the roster for the World University Games.”

Enrolling in summer school and getting in the K-State program this summer has been a positive experience for Langhaim so far. While she is here early she is already looking forward to seeing her game improve to the level of her new teammates and making an impact at K-State soon.

“I have loved it so far. All the girls, we get along really well,” Langhaim said. “For now, I’m just a little freshman still trying to find the routes, but I’m excited to be in this program and play how they play now.”

Batchelder and Kober are two defensive specialists that will give the Wildcats more players on the back row with the graduation of two specialists from last season, including starting libero Kuulei Kabalis.

Kober comes to K-State from Southlake Carroll, known as one of the top football programs in the talent-rich state of Texas, but a school with successful sports programs across the board.

“We had the opportunity to work with Kersten in camp last summer and she impressed us with her ability, work ethic and character. We knew at that time that she would be a terrific addition to our team,” Fritz said. “She has all of the qualities that make for a productive and successful player at that position. Kersten has K-State ties as her father is a K-State alum and she has a great deal of family ties in Kansas.”

Batchelder also is from Colorado Springs where she played for Doherty High School. Fritz said her knowledge of the game by playing more than one position in high school will help her transition to the collegiate level quickly and is another player on the team that is already part of the K-State Family.

“We felt very fortunate to pick up Mattie late in the recruiting process. We had the opportunity to see her play in March and loved the way she made everyone else around her better,” Fritz said. “She will help us at the libero/specialist position, but has also spent time at the outside hitter position during her prep career. The fact that she has played another position will really help her understand the game at a higher level. Plus, Mattie has K-State ties as her parents are both alumni.”

The transition for the two defensive specialists has been smooth so far with each seeing benefits of coming to Manhattan in the summer rather than August when fall training camp is set to begin. Kober said she believes some adjustments have already been made while there is still room for more improvement.

“We definitely learned the speed of the game. That was something we have had to adjust to, plus getting to know our teammates and getting to know the coaching staff and what they expect from us,” Kober said. “I think that’s a big plus that we get to get in the gym earlier and to know the system a lot earlier.”

Making the move from high school to college is always a challenge, and Batchelder has been impressed early by the coaching staff and their focus to make each player better. Following a small tutoring session with Reininger, Kober and spring enrollee Bailey Shurbet that focused on passing, Batchelder said she already feels like she is improving because she is learning new ways to do things on the court.

“It’s a huge advantage to be here now; we’re learning new technique stuff. We just spent a whole bunch of time on technique that I’ve never had before,” Batchelder said. “So, it’s definitely an advantage to get here before the fall and learn everything.”

With Reininger, Langhaim, Batchelder and Kober on campus during the summer training for the World University Games, they add to the class of newcomers for a total of six with Shurbet, mentioned earlier, and defensive specialist Dallas Gardner, who joined the team in the spring.

The team continues practices this week for the World University Games with K-State having accepted an invitation to be the Team USA representatives at the Games in Russia in July. The team has a little over two more weeks to train before leaving for the opening ceremonies set for July 6.