A force of impact: K-State soccer’s Katie Cramer sets sights on new goals

Junior forward Katie Cramer dribbles the ball downfield during the second half of Thursday night's game against Drake University at the K-State Soccer Complex. K-State would go on to win the game 1-0. (Alex Masson | Collegian Media Group)

During Katie Cramer’s junior year at Wichita Northwest High School, Kansas State soccer head coach Mike Dibbini liked what he saw from Katie in a high school game.

Cramer, a Wichita native, is thankful for that.

In Cramer’s four-year high school career, she was plagued with injuries, causing her to sit out two of her four years. Her love for soccer didn’t let her injuries stop her from playing. She did not give up on the game that she loves.

Cramer — a junior at K-State — was a three-year letter winner at Northwest, tallying 56 goals and 10 assists in the two years she played. In her junior year, she set the school record by scoring 44 goals as she led Northwest to a second-place finish in the Greater Wichita Athletic League.

She was awarded a spot on the on the 2015 Kansas Coaches Association All-State 6A Second Team Selection, the 2015 Class 6A All-Region recipient and was selected to the All-Greater Wichita Athletic League Second Team.

In 2015, Mike Dibbini gave her the chance to take her talents to the college level.

Cramer said it is kind of crazy that she made it here to K-State after injuries caused her to sit out for two years in high school and kept her from playing club soccer.

“Coach Dibbini recruited me my junior year in high school,” Cramer said. “I am thankful for that every single year, cause without everything that I’ve been through I never would have thought I would’ve made it here. They gave me a shot like this; that’s another reason why I’m always so motivated to give my all, all the time, and to be the best I can be. Not only for myself, but also for the coaches who took this chance on me, giving me this incredible opportunity.”

Cramer has not let the coaches down on giving her the chance, as she has displayed her talent here at K-State as she has continued to improve. During her freshman year in 2016, Cramer started one game and played in 15, totaling 400 minutes.

In that 400 minutes, she scored one goal — which was the first goal in K-State soccer history on a corner kick against Saint Louis. Three of Cramer’s five shots were on goal, and she took 21 corner kicks — which was the second most on the team.

Cramer’s stats took a step up her sophomore year. In 2017, she set a record-high 18 matches played, as well as a career-high eight starts and a career-best 1,000 minutes of playing time. She scored a total of five points, led the team in assists in Big 12 games with two, set a career-high three assists — including the first Big 12 assist in program history against Texas Tech. She had the assist on the game-winning goal against in-state rival Kansas.

Cramer was also awarded for her work in the classroom, as she earned a spot on the Academic All-Big 12 First team, the 2016-17 Big 12 Academic All-Rookie Team and the four-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.

Cramer is always doing something to improve her game, she said.

“I never really take any time off during the summer,” Cramer said. “A lot of girls go home and chill out for June and part of July, but I’m here all summer … just staying fit.

“Ever since I’ve had so many knee surgeries, my work ethic has skyrocketed from there because I know what it’s like to be sitting out, so that has always inspired me and motivated me,” Cramer continued. “I only have a couple years left, and I just want to give it my all and hopefully getting more highlight reels.”

The 5-foot-6 forward says the coaching staff, particularly Dibbini, have been a big help in her development as a player,

“He’s always been very encouraging for me, he knows what I’ve been through, he knows I don’t have the same background as most of the girls here,” Cramer said on Dibbini’s impact. “I think he always makes sure he keeps encouraging me, he will send me messages sometimes, saying, ‘Keep it up, you’re doing great.’”

Cramer said sometimes Dibbini knows she needs a little reminder that she can do it.

“He knows I can do it, he knows what I’m capable of,” she said. “He’s always willing to do that, and so is Jessie [Smith] and Gabe [Romo].”

When Cramer arrived at K-State, her freshman class was a total of 13 girls. Now, she is one of the three that have stuck around.

Cramer scored one of the four goals on Sunday against the University of Oakland to reach the first 2-0-0 start in school history, and on Thursday scored the winning goal as the Wildcats defeated the Drake Bulldogs to extend their best start to 3-0-0.

Cramer said she thinks she is doing her part in building a winning foundation in the program.

“I think we all play really important roles, us three juniors, because … we’ve seen this program from the very start,” Cramer said. “The hard times, and it’s finally looking up. It’s a really special feeling that all our hard work and all the grinding is paying off for us.”

Not only has Cramer had an unforgettable time as a soccer player at Kansas State, she has loved being here, she said.

“It’s been incredible; the last couple of years we haven’t won too many games, and yet you look in the stands and there are thousands of people, and that’s just really welcoming,” Cramer said. “I don’t even think established programs get that where they’re at when they’re winning games. This is a family, and we appreciate that so much.”

As K-State soccer is now achieving success, Cramer said the fans are for sure a big part of it.

“We have Cats Den; they’re always screaming and yelling,” Cramer said. “That pumps you up, it gets you going, it gives you your second energy. They definitely help us out a lot.”

She knows the future of K-state soccer is bright with the freshman class, she said.

“I think just encouraging them not only soccer-wise but just mentally, you know you come into college and it’s definitely a change,” Cramer said. “It’s not always easy to cope with. If you’re just there for them and you care for them outside of soccer and also on the field that makes a big difference in just making them feel like family.”

Dibbini said as an impact player, Cramer has the mindset of a competitor that doesn’t want to hold back or leave anything undone.

“She’s the first one out to the field, the last one to leave,” Dibbini said. “She’s in the weight room consistently, so she’s putting in the time and the effort, she’s becoming more and more of a soccer junkie, watching more film. Not only do you play the game and prepare your body physically, she’s mentally preparing herself by watching soccer. That’s the best trainer of the brain is watching a lot of soccer, learning herself and pro-level to get herself better watching her positions.”

In the last two years of her K-State soccer career, Cramer said her goal is to finish conference play with a winning record and to play in the Big 12 tournament.

“Actually just competing in every single game you know, even against the best teams out here,” Cramer said. “Just knowing when you step on the field that you know you have a shot, I think that’s definitely a goal for us.”

Dibbini said Cramer still has more room to grow with the game.

“She hasn’t hit her full potential, and it’s scary because if she keeps adapting the way she’s adapting, yeah, the sky is the limit,” Dibbini said. “We will see what happens.”