BABBITT — Late last year, Northeast Range volleyball standout Hannah Reichensperger made a verbal commitment to Illinois State University.
Her senior year of the sport wrapped up, Reichensperger put pen to paper on Monday, signing her National Letter of Intent to play for the Redbirds beginning next season. While she’s known her destination for a while, making it a reality surrounded by her family and teammates made it a dream come true.
“In my brain, it’s super exciting to get it down on paper and make it official,” Reichensperger said. “The cool part is having my teammates here with me and everyone that’s helped me along the way watching me sign.
“College volleyball is the dream. Ever since the seventh grade, I’ve made playing in college my goal and volleyball has been my life. Now that I get to keep playing the game, that’s just amazing. I love being able to play this sport and being a part of this community and I want to be a part of it for as long as I can.”
Coach and mother Jodi Rogers-Reichensperger says Monday was a bag of mixed emotions for her as she watched her daughter take the next step in her volleyball and academic career.
“It’s very bittersweet,” Rogers-Reichensperger said. “We’ve choked back some tears. This is what she’s worked for but it’s still hard watching her make that next step into adulthood and her adult volleyball career. It’s bittersweet for sure but we’re very proud of her and how far she’s come.”
The pair enjoy another connection between where Hannah is now and where she’ll be headed in the fall. Rogers-Reichensperger grew up in Illinois and played college volleyball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Now her daughter will leave Minnesota to go play volleyball in Illinois.
“It’s one of those weird serendipitous things,” Rogers-Reichenspeger said. “She’ll have her grandparents there just a couple hours away. There’s a lot of extended family for her there. I feel good knowing that. The campus is beautiful and small. She’s a small town girl going to a big city with a small town feel. We’re just thrilled for her.
Hannah says she fell in love with the school before she verbally committed and knew it was a good fit when the university’s core values lined up with her own.
“Everything they work for as a program is what I’ve worked towards growing up,” Reichensperger said. “Growth, tradition and service are their three core values and it’s all about growing to be a better person, being the best teammate you can be to continue their strong tradition and working together with others to lift each other up. Everything about that really made sense with what I wanted to do.”
The Nighthawks senior says she doesn’t know what she plans on studying when she becomes a Redbird but that’s fine as she’s excited to keep growing and getting better on the court while receiving a top-tier education.
“It’s a huge step up. I was at club tryouts for Minnesota North yesterday in Duluth and that was so competitive. I was thinking to myself that college is going to be like this all the time and even a step above that. Even if I’m not at the other girls’ levels yet when I get there, I know I can practice and grow with them and get there and that’s very exciting for me.”
Whether it's on the court or off, Hannah’s mother believes there’s plenty that caught the eye of the Division I school.
“You can tell she has the skill with the way she works 12 months a year. She’s also a 4.0 student and she’ll get, not even an athletic scholarship, but the Presidential Scholarship at Illinois State.
“When there’s no volleyball, she’s outside hitting balls against the garage. She’ll sit and pass to herself or even drag me or her brother outside to help her. If there’s an open gym down in Duluth, that’s where you’ll find her.”
Above all, her team first attitude might be her most important attribute.
“She’s a nice kid. She’s a humble kid. I don’t think she'll ever take credit for any of her successes. She’ll say she works hard but she’ll be the first to say it’s because of her team that she got to where she was.”
That selfless nature was on display for Reichensperger all season long as she and her Nighthawk teammates made Northeast Range history by advancing to the Section 7A finals earlier this month.
“It was super exciting,” Hannah said. “Making the finals and making history with the team I had was just a great feeling. It means everything to have the team that I did. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without them and I’m so grateful that they were there with me every day on this journey.”
Being taught and coached by her mother for years, Reichensperger said she’s excited for the challenge of playing under a new coach, but knows that her mom will still be there with her as much as possible.
“I don’t know if it hasn’t hit me yet but it doesn’t feel like I’m going to be saying goodbye. I know she’ll be at my games. My grandparents are down there. Maybe I’ll feel it in the spring when I’m getting ready to leave but right now I’m grateful that she got to teach me for so long. I’m very excited for the next step and I know she’s excited for me too.”