Media Credits: Photo Illustration by Sydney Walsh | Assistant photo editor
Throughout Reifert’s coaching career, she has helped lead multiple programs to regular season and championship wins.
Eleven years ago, Katie Reifert pledged to women’s volleyball as a team captain and middle blocker, earning her the titles of team MVP and GW’s Offensive Player of the Year. Now she has once again taken the reins of her former team as the program’s newest head coach.
Reifert said she was an avid softball and basketball player in high school before turning her attention to volleyball after friends introduced her to the sport.
“When I was a student athlete, I never saw myself as a coach,” said Reifert. “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 sidelines telling people what to do.”
Reifert was named to the Atlantic-10 Second Team after finishing second in the conference with a .357 pass rate. She also holds the fifth all-time GW record for hitting percentage with a .282 over four seasons.
After her career with GW, Reifert went on to compete professionally in Europe, playing for Kuusamo Pallo-Karhut in Finland in 2012, before moving to FC Lucerne in Switzerland in 2014.
Reifert said she chose tactical know-how in her professional career, which encouraged her to eventually enter the coaching realm and try it for herself.
Reifert began a season as an assistant coach at Loyola University Maryland, before leading the men’s and women’s volleyball programs at Illinois Tech for four seasons from 2014-18. Reifert took the women’s team to two consecutive 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 head coach of the newly formed men’s program in 2015. She broke the team’s overall record over three seasons, eventually leading them to their first double-digit win tally in 2018.
Reifert was also an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Brown University from 2018-20. In 2019, she helped 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 following the quiet departure of former Head Coach Sarah Bernson in November. As the tenth head coach in the history of the program, she inherits a squad that hasn’t seen a winning season since 2015, culminating in a 2021 season where the team finished with a record of 2-25 overall.
Reifert said she plans to build an offensive-minded team that will go 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 attacking, being able to have better ball control,” Reifert said. “Play cleaner volleyball so we can play better attacking, more approach so we can get more swings, so we can just be a more attacking team and attack our competition.”
As she strives to build the team in her image, Reifert said she prioritizes bringing in well-rounded volleyball players with “good first touch” and those aren’t “one trick ponies.” In addition to the technical qualities, she said she wants players who are passionate about the sport and willing to accept the mission of the program.
“Character is a big thing,” Reifert said. “I would say we need to make sure we bring in players who are excited about the opportunity to build this program and create a championship culture here.”
After a disappointing fall season, the team has recently started spring training. Reifert said the first session went “incredibly well” and the team is excited to get off the ground and work towards a more successful season.
Reifert said GW has always been a big part of her life, as it allowed her to create lifelong friendships with her teammates and led her to meet her mentors and coaches, with whom she is still in touch. She said her experiences at GW allowed her to develop many of the skills she uses as a professional coach to this day.
“I know the game and I am excited to use my tactical and technical knowledge to help this team compete at the next level,” said Reifert. “But then I think that just my enthusiasm and passion for not just this place as my alma mater, but the sport and competition in general. I’m super excited and passionate about this profession. The great thing about this job is that it’s not like feels like a job.”