On Sept. 6, 2012, Katie Reininger took her first steps into Ahearn Field House. However, the 6-foot-2-inch middle blocker out of Colorado Springs, Colorado was wearing the jersey of Moraga, California’s Saint Mary’s College.
Reininger’s first encounter with the K-State family left an impression.
“I remember seeing the crowd, and it (was) intimidating,” Reininger said. “There was a band and so much energy and alumni (that’ve) been coming to the games for 20 years. I wanted to play for a school like this.”
Her first performance proved to be her worst in front of the purple-clad faithful. Little did Reininger know at the time, that one game would not end up being her legacy at K-State.
After that first game in Manhattan, she hung up her red, white and blue St. Mary’s uniform and sought greener pastures.
“I just thought it wasn’t for me,” Reininger said of her transfer. “I’m not a West Coast girl. So I came back to the Midwest and met (K-State head coach) Suzie Fritz.”
Reininger, like so many Wildcat players and coaches throughout the athletic spectrum, had fallen hard for the culture and pride in Manhattan.
It was that same sense of pride that her parents, Robert and Susan Reininger, instilled in her upbringing. Her mother attended the Air Force Academy, while her father attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
“My parents are awesome,” Katie said. “They are very disciplined people, but (are) also very optimistic and I think that’s where I get my optimism from. Just the level of discipline and focus to get to the next level.”
Along with that discipline and focus came a competitive drive that is almost genetic. Robert was a competitive rower for the U.S. National Rowing Team, winning two bronze medals in 1986 and 1987.
In addition, Katie is the older sister to two brothers, Marc and Joseph, which she said has helped feed her competitive drive.
“I went home this past weekend and we had family board game night,” Katie said. “My brothers and I are super competitive. We were playing Clue, which is really less about being competitive and more about strategy, but we we’re throwing cards around and getting really into it.”
As for her volleyball background, Katie first played for the Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, her high school, and then for several clubs and AAU teams that included the Colorado Juniors, Front Range and Norco.
“When I first started volleyball, I hated it,” Katie said. “I was awful. I was number 10 on a team of 10, but I just stuck with it. I played for Terry Pettit (when I was 17) and he gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of good advice to take to the court and I just broke free that year. Somehow the hard work paid off.”
Fans of Big Eight/early Big 12 volleyball will recognize Pettit’s name on sight, but for those unaware, he is a former coach at Nebraska.
Pettit terrorized the conference in his tenure, winning 21 conference titles in 23 seasons between 1977-99 and a national title in 1995.
Katie left quite a impression on Pettit during their time together, who did nothing but rave about the sophomore.
“(Katie) is a tremendous person,” Pettit said. “I’ve haven’t been able to see her play since she’s has been at K-State, but I could see her incredible potential when I coached her. She wants to win, almost to the extent that it’s a need.”
That potential led Katie to K-State where, after redshirting her first season on campus, she has emerged as a key piece in Fritz’s game plan.
“The thing about (Katie) is that she goes 100 mph,” Fritz said. “She does it every day; you know exactly what you’re going to get from her and she works incredibly hard. She values her opportunity to play, every rep. She has the right kind of mindset. I don’t know what she’s doing, but she’s just being Katie.”
“Being Katie” has been a great platform for the talented sophomore to compete on as she and her teammates are camping on a 17-3 record.
Katie ranks second in the Big 12 in overall blocks and third in blocks per set and was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week the week of Oct. 6.
She attributes her success to the effort she constantly puts in.
“It’s a lot to do with the hard work off the court,” Katie said. “It’s just making sure that I’m mindful, that I’m taking the tools I learned my redshirt year and transfer them to this year and making sure I stay consistent and calm.”
Aside from her on-court skills, teammates love talking about her ability just being a teammate.
“(Katie) is very good at always staying positive and looking ahead,” sophomore setter Katie Brand said. “There is never a bad set for her. She will swing at anything. It could be terrible, but she’ll tell me, ‘No no, I’ll get it.’ And for that it’s just so easy to work with her.”