Reese Booth
Elkhorn North's Reese Booth announced her commitment to Northern Iowa earlier this week. (Courtesy photo)

Elkhorn North’s Booth sets her own volleyball path


Reese Booth was in a transition phase, moving from libero to setter, so she ramped up the practice reps.

Her training even spilled into the entrance way of the family’s previous home. Why? It was the only spot in the house that had a ceiling high enough to bump volleyballs.

“It was a tiny, little space but that is where I would always go and mess around,” Reese said. “At one point we had to move all the lamps and stuff away because the balls hit the walls so many times.”

Between those walls sprouted one of the state’s top setters. Now a junior at Elkhorn North, Reese is piloting one of the top teams in Class B and she recently announced her commitment to Northern Iowa.

A volleyball family

One of the biggest assists in Booth’s development has come from her mother, Kirsten Bernthal-Booth, who knows a thing or two about volleyball. She has been guiding the Creighton program for two decades. When she wasn’t on the sideline or putting together practice rundowns, Kirsten was in that entrance way, setting back and forth with her oldest of three daughters.

“Growing up around volleyball, having all of her players be role models and just seeing it helped my game so much,” Reese said. “She obviously has a lot of good advice, physically and mentally, and I think that helped develop me and grow.”

Reese has two younger sisters. Hayden is a freshman at Elkhorn North and Berkeley is a fifth-grader. They each love volleyball and other sports.

The family does normal family stuff, Reese says. They like to find a good sandwich and then go shopping. It’s not quite like their appetite for volleyball.

Kirsten Bernthal-Booth

Creighton volleyball coach Kirsten Bernthal-Booth. (Creighton Athletics/Bonnie Ryan)

Her own route

Kirsten was a two-sport standout at Lincoln East. She sent VHS tapes to 10 college tennis programs and 10 volleyball tapes to volleyball coaches. She chose volleyball and attended Division II Truman State in Missouri before entering coaching.

Kirsten has built Creighton into a top-25 program. Reece, meanwhile, continues to help mold an Elkhorn North program that is barely three seasons old.

Reese grew up around Creighton volleyball. There were the occasional bus rides with the team. Reese was even in weddings of a couple former Bluejays.

Sure, Reese could have set her sights on playing for her mom at Creighton. But Reese knew early in the recruiting process that she wanted to go her own route.

“Reese and I have a great relationship, but I think both of us thought, ‘Boy that would be really tough to be in the locker room as the daughter of the head coach,’” Kirsten said. “It may change the relationship with her teammates if that was the case. I’m sure we could have navigated it, but I think it was always the plan that she would go somewhere else.”

Mom didn’t have to worry about making a recruiting pitch. Instead, she offered full support as Reese began looking at colleges. It wasn’t always easy. Kirsten was unable to go on recruiting visits because of her duties at Creighton (Reese was able to start official visits on Sept. 1, which coincides with the start of college volleyball). Dad (Erik) stepped in.

“It was really interesting to be on this side of the process,” Kirsten said. “First of all, you see how challenging it is to make a decision. It’s stressful and they’re young, and (you’re) trying to guide your daughter on things to look at that are going to be probably the most important, in my opinion, to having a good experience both academically and for volleyball.”

Reese believes she’ll get that experience at Northern Iowa, a school that is only an hour away from some family members, including grandparents. It’s also a program that Kirsten knows well. The Panthers are coached by Bobbi Peterson, who was at Northern Iowa when Kirsten was coaching at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“She was a great mentor to me and now a great friend,” Kirsten said. “I say this to recruits in the process. I think other than your parents a college coach could have the most influence in your life. Wherever Reese went, I wanted her to be an outstanding, good human that’s going to mentored well beyond the volleyball court.”

Booth family

Reese (left) and Kirsten Bernthal-Booth. (Courtesy photo)

Watching Reese grow

Mom did get an opportunity to coach Reese.

Kirsten, along with current Elkhorn North coach Jennifer Gragert and Alyssa LeGrand teamed up to coach their daughters’ youth team.

Reese was a libero but switched to setter during her 14s club season. It was a good move. She started as a freshman for a new school and racked up more than 700 assists. Reese had 953 assists last year and she’s on pace to reach 1,000 this year.

Reese continues to grow as a volleyball player. Kirsten is there to offer feedback if Reese wants it, though Reese jokes that Mom can be stingier when it comes to basketball season.

“I think she can give me a hard time there,” Reese said. “(In volleyball), she doesn’t want to give me too much feedback; she lets the coaches do their thing. She knows that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about in basketball necessarily so she can say whatever and I’ll be like, ‘OK, sure, Mom.’”

For Kirsten, that’s part of the fun – being able to put her job aside for a couple hours at a time to watch her kids play sports.

It’s been a lot of fun watching Elkhorn North volleyball this season. The Wolves (16-2) are ranked No. 2 in Class B. A talented roster includes Purdue recruit Grace Heaney, and Shay Heaney, who is one of the top sophomores in the state.

Multiple players on the Elkhorn North volleyball team have tasted great success playing for the Wolves’ back-to-back state championship basketball program. Reese is hoping the school can experience a similar feeling in volleyball.

“I want it so bad,” she said. “I’ve also kind of imagine growing up watching state volleyball, so it’s always been a goal and something that I wanted to do, and it would be a really cool experience.”

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