Eleven years ago, Katie Reifert brought promise to women’s volleyball as team captain and middle blocker, earning the titles of team MVP and GW’s offensive player of the year. Now, she has taken the reins of her former team once more as the program’s newest head coach.
Reifert said she was first an avid softball and basketball player in high school before turning her focus to volleyball after friends introduced her to the sport.
“When I was a student athlete, I never saw myself as a coach,” Reifert said. “I loved playing – I still do, I still play as much as I can – I just loved playing, and I couldn’t see myself sitting on the sideline and telling people what to do.”
Reifert was named to the Atlantic-10 Second Team after finishing second overall in the conference with a .357 hitting percentage. She also holds the fifth all-time GW record for hitting percentage with a .282 across four seasons.
After her career at GW, Reifert went on to compete professionally in Europe, where she played for Kuusamo Pallo-Karhut in Finland in 2012 before joining FC Luzern in Switzerland in 2014.
Reifert said she picked tactical know-how in her professional career, which encouraged her to eventually enter the coaching realm and try it for herself.
Reifert started out as an assistant coach at Loyola University Maryland for a season, before serving four seasons at the helm of the men’s and women’s volleyball programs at Illinois Tech from 2014-18. Reifert took the women’s team to two straight appearances in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship in 2016 and 2017 and led the program to a top-10 finish in the USCAA in 2017.
In light of her success with the women’s program, Reifert was also named the head coach of the newly formed men’s program in 2015. She boosted the team’s overall record through three seasons and eventually led them to their first double-digit win total in 2018.
Reifert also served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator with Brown University from 2018-20. In 2019, she helped guide Brown to their first winning season since 2001 and three student-athletes to all-conference recognition.
Reifert was announced as head coach in late December after the quiet exit of former Head Coach Sarah Bernson in November. As the tenth head coach in program history, she inherits a squad that hasn’t seen a winning season since 2015, capped by a 2021 season in which the team finished with a 2-25 record overall.
Reifert said she plans to build an offensive-minded team that goes after their competition, a shift from the defensive teams of recent years.
“We just need to play a little bit cleaner volleyball, in terms of being more offensive, being able to have better ball control,” Reifert said. “Play cleaner volleyball so that we can play a better offense, more play-in system so that we can get more swings off so that we can just be a more offensive team and attack our competition.”
As she looks to build the team in her image, Reifert said she’s prioritizing bringing in well-rounded volleyball players with “good first touch” and that are not “one-trick ponies.” In addition to the technical qualities, she said she wants players who are passionate about the sport and willing to buy into the program’s mission.
“Character is a big thing,” Reifert said. “I would say making sure that we bring in players who are excited about the possibility of building this program and creating a championship culture here.”
After a disappointing fall season, the team has recently begun spring training. Reifert said the first session went “incredibly well” and the team is excited to get off the ground and work toward a more successful season.
Reifert said GW has always been a huge part of her life as it allowed her to create lifelong friendships with her teammates and led her to meet her mentors and coaches, whom she still keeps in touch with. She said her experiences at GW allowed her to form many of the skills she still uses to this day as a professional coach.
“I know the game, and I am excited to use my tactical and technical know-how to help this team compete at the next level,” Reifert said. “But then, I think just my enthusiasm and passion for not only this place as my alma mater but the sport and competition in general. I’m super enthusiastic and passionate about this career. It’s one of the great things about this job, is that it doesn’t feel like a job.”