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Four Wildcats join volleyball this summer

By The Mercury

Fall classes are still a couple months away 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.

K-State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz has welcomed four new players to the team this summer — including 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. 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. This past season at St. Mary’s, she averaged 1.55 kills per set as a freshman. 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 lost in the NCAA Championship match to Texas.

“Katie brings a great deal of enthusiasm, experience, leadership and talent to our team,” Fritz said. “She is the epitome of a team player and someone who has a knack for making the people around her better.

“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.

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 last fall, her high school team finished second at the state tournament, and five of her teammates also signed national letters to play collegiate volleyball. The right side hitter adds height to the position as she stands at 6-feet-3.

“Brookelyn is an outstanding athlete with a great deal of upside,” Fritz said. “She is a focused and competitive. 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. “

Langhaim will also travel with the Wildcats to 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,” she said. “All the girls, we get along really well. 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.

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

Batchelder also is from Colorado Springs where she played at 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 college level quickly.

“We felt very fortunate to pick up Mattie late in the recruiting process,” Fritz said. “We had the opportunity to see her play in March and loved the way she made everyone else around her better.

“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.”

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 begins.

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,” she said. “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.

“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 its focus to make each player better.

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

The four new Wildcats will join a class of six newcomers this fall.

K-State will continue practice this week for the World University Games, which begin in Russia next month.The Games’ opening ceremonies are July 6.

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