Everyday Champion - Bree Knitter
Bree Knitter survived wrong way Taras (Terry) Liskevych on I-205 and ended up in Corvallis from the Southern California community of Fallbrook to become a standout for the Oregon State volleyball team. Since that scary early morning misadventure back in the fall of 2005, the junior has excelled on and off the court to help the Beaver volleyball team earn in its first national ranking since 1996 and enter this week's match with No. 8 Oregon, in the Northwest Dodge Civil War Series, on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2001.
For Knitter, the experience at Oregon State has been rewarding and she has truly excelled with above an A- GPA as a double major in sociology and Spanish. Is it a daunting task to double major with the demands of being a student-athlete? "The demand doesn't seem to overwhelming because I really enjoy what I do. I'm doing the things that interest me so it isn't a burden."
A new interest has come about lately as the sociology department has added a criminal justice option to its curriculum. Knitter took an immediate interest and became part of the department's "Inside-Out" program that Beaver football student-athlete Pernnell Booth has also participated in. The program, developed by sociology professor Michelle Inderbitzin, provides students a first-hand experience with the prison system. Knitter was part of a group of classmates that developed a delinquency prevention strategy to be implemented at the women's prison at the nearby Oak Creek facility.
"We video recorded mothers reading books, so their children back home could watch the DVDs and stay connected to them," Knitter said.
It was an eye opening experience for Bree, who said the experience has changed her mind about a lot of things that go behind bars.
"Bree was enthusiastic and open-minded throughout the class," Inderbitzin said. "Her academic performance was strong and her attitude was fantastic. I'm hoping we can work together on more projects at Oak Creek in the future."
There's no question that Bree has embraced the Oregon State atmosphere after being a bit hesitant on that first recruiting trip.
"My first thought was coming in on Highway 34 and thinking to myself `where am I going,'" Knitter said. "I came around Thanksgiving, and it was pretty cold, so I got to see what the weather was like. When I first got into town, I noticed all the Beaver Fever around town. I saw flags in every window and people wearing Beaver gear, and just thought that people really support the university."
Knitter hopes that Beaver Nation turns out in numbers for this Friday's 7:00 p.m. showdown against the Ducks at legendary Gill Coliseum. A win would give the Beavers the edge in the current standings of the Northwest Dodge Civil War Series, which is currently tied at 2-2-1.
More with Bree Knitter
Q. Your first two seasons in the program the team didn't have a lot of success in terms of wins, but that has changed this season. What's behind that?
A. We had a really big class of incoming freshmen two years ago, and we didn't have a lot of experience. This is our third season together now, and we are playing with a lot more confidence.
Q. What did Coach Taras (Terry) Liskevych preach to the team during those building years?
A. Never stop working hard. Communicate. Do all the little things to be good.
Q. How has coach Liskevych helped your game?
A. He's helped me become a better hitter and blocker. I came in as a utility player, and he has helped me become more versatile.
Q. Do you have a humorous story about Coach Liskevych?
A. On my official visit, on the way home I had an early morning flight out of Portland, so I stayed in a hotel near the airport. The next day at around 5:00 a.m., Terry picked me up, and we got on the freeway going the wrong way - that was a little scary. Thankfully traffic was light, and we whipped around and got off the freeway.
Q. What was Coach Liskevych's pitch to you as a senior in high school to come to Oregon State?
A. I was actually his first recruit to Oregon State. He first saw me play in a tournament, and he came up to me during that event. He was the former national coach, and he made me feel like he knew what he was talking about, and if he believes in me then I know he will make me a better player.
Q. What was behind your decision to leave Southern California for Oregon State?
A. It was hard to leave Southern California, not only for the weather, but because of my family and friends.
Q. What were your first thoughts on your recruiting trip?
A. My first thought was coming in on Highway 34 and thinking to myself `where am I going.' I came around Thanksgiving, and it was pretty cold, and I got to see what the weather was like. When I first got into town I noticed all the Beaver Fever around town. I saw flags in every window and people wearing Beaver gear, and just thought that people really supported the university.
Q. What other college options did you have after high school?
A. I received a lot of letters from other schools. By the time Terry came into the picture it was late in the process - I was in my senior year in high school. I had an offer to play at the University of San Diego, and that looked promising. My parents were a big fan of me staying close and going to a private university. But when I visited Oregon State it just felt right.
Q. How supportive was your family about moving a great distance from home?
A. My parents were really supportive. My mom came with me on my unofficial visit and my dad on my official visit, and both of them knew when they were here with me that Oregon State was where I was going to go.
Q. What does it mean to you and your team to see attendance growing in Gill Coliseum?
A. The support of everyone really helps the team. We know to get fan interest we have to win big games, and the more we win the more people will come out and watch us. This season we have had some of our biggest crowds and that is a huge lift.
Q. You are a double major in sociology and Spanish, why those avenues of study?
A. I chose Spanish when I get here because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to study when I came here, but I know I want to go back home where there is a high demand for Spanish speakers in the work place. I have family members who are from Mexico, and I have always liked the language. I also decided to major in sociology because I think it is interesting. I don't know exactly what I want to do for a profession, but I want to use my Spanish and maybe incorporate some of the sociology and criminal justice things that I have learned.
Q. You have been very successful academically, what's the key for someone as busy as you are with school and athletics?
A. The demand doesn't seem to overwhelming because I really enjoy what I do. I'm doing the things that interest me so it isn't a burden to be a double major and compete in athletics.
Q. How important is it for you to have a scholarship?
A. Having a scholarship to a Pac-10 school has opened doors for me that would have been there otherwise. I take a lot of pride in being at Oregon State and try to take advantage of it as much as I can by getting as much of an education as I can during my time here.
Q. What does it mean to you that the Beaver Athletic Student Fund (BASF) donors support student-athletes like yourself with scholarship contributions?
A. In my case, I wouldn't be able to attend Oregon State University, earn a great education and play for a coach the caliber of Coach Liskevych. I have had a wonderful experience at Oregon State and learned a lot about the state."
Q. You along with some classmates have developed a program that has been implemented in a women's prison? Explain what that program is.
A. In the sociology department they just began the criminal justice option, which I find interesting. Last summer I had a chance to be a part of the "Inside-Out Program" which is a program that is sponsored by the Oregon State Penitentiary. Sociology professor Michelle Inderbitzin leads the program and she pairs 15 students from Oregon State with 15 inmates, and it's taught like a regular class. We have developed a strategy to be implemented at the women's prison where we video record mothers reading books to their children back home. People think they know what goes on in a prison, but they really don't. This experience has opened my eyes and changed my mind about a lot of things.
Q. Do you think you have reached someone inside the prison that really looks up to you?
A. The rules in the institution (prison) are strict. We only have contact with the inmates during class time and after that we have no contact. But I think my being there gave the inmates hope.