Sommer Code remembers herself a shy freshman at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, desperately needing an outlet to help her come out of her shell.
Then she met John Reingold, the head volleyball coach for the Lady Tigers, and her life changed almost in an instant.
“I had always kind of kept to myself before I joined volleyball,” said Code, who recently graduated from RKA. “But volleyball, it helped open me up to different experiences and to meeting new people. It was through volleyball that I was able to make friends.”
Code went from quiet wallflower in her early years at RKA to being instrumental in leading the Lady Tigers to back-to-back Public School Athletic League city championships in her junior and senior seasons. And it was Reingold — and volleyball — that prepared Code for her upcoming first year of college.
“The last two years of high school were the best years for me based on our success, the great accomplishments that we made as a team,” Code said. “Two straight championships, I never felt a bond with a team more than I did with the one I played on the last two years. We were like a family, and Reingold was a big part of that. He was always someone who pushed me and was always there when I had difficulty with anything. He pushed me to be the best version of myself that I could be. He always believed in me. ”
Code remembers a little heart-to-heart talk she had with Reingold at the end of her sophomore season when the Lady Tigers’ season came to an abrupt end in the PSAL semifinals. It was a talk that they revisited following her junior season.
“He promised me the team would be mine the next year,” Code said. “And he kept that promise. It was a lot of weight on my shoulders, but it was the best feeling. Then after we won the first championship, he told me after the game, ‘I told you so,’ about it being my team. He didn’t forget.”
Code is now off to SUNY Purchase where she’ll showcase her volleyball skills for the Purchase Panthers in the fall as part of an NCAA Division III program.
“I like science and the arts, which made Purchase the perfect place for me,” Code said. “I’m going in as a biology major to be a physical therapist, but I’m also interested in the arts. I made sculptures in my senior year at RKA, and I also love interior design.”
Shadai Plowdin, a star on the RKA girls basketball team, will join Code at Purchase.
“That makes it a little easier going to a new school, having someone you already know going with you,” Code said. “But it is a bittersweet feeling to be leaving RKA. I’m happy that I’m finally finished with high school and I’m moving on to more adult things. But I’m really going to miss my friends and my teachers who I’ve been with the last four years. And I’ll miss playing volleyball with my teammates.
“My time in high school feels like a short (movie) clip was being played. It wasn’t long enough, and I’m not with my team anymore. But I guess I’m moving on to a new chapter in my life.”
Code will fulfill her dream of playing collegiate volleyball in about eight weeks when Purchase hosts Brooklyn College in the Panthers’ season opener. The next eight weeks can’t go by fast enough for Code, although she will be on campus a few weeks before her first game commences.
“I leave to go up there on Aug. 20,” said Code, who recorded 16 kills in the Lady Tigers’ PSAL city title game victory over Robert Wagner last November. “I’m extremely excited to try something new. I’m going to a new team, and I’m going to meet new people, and I’m looking forward to all of that.
“But most of all I’m looking forward to finally playing volleyball on the collegiate level. I can’t wait.”