Oregon's Brenner Learning To Win

By Allison Siebenmann

Liz Brenner is no stranger to competition. A four-sport athlete in high school, Brenner is probably the only high school athlete recruited to Oregon in volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field. Her athleticism is no surprise, as she comes from an athletic family; both of her parents were collegiate swimmers and instilled in their children a desire to be competitive and active.

"Me, my brother, and my sister have all be involved in sports since were 5 years old so at a young age we were learning how to be competitive and how to win," said Brenner.

Brenner's athleticism continued into her high school career, where she was active in basketball, softball and track & field. She decided her junior year that she wanted to play volleyball in the collegiate level.

"I started to play on a really fun club team and we were really competitive," said Brenner. "I just fell in love with how fast the sport moved. You win a point every rally so it's exciting because there is always something going on."

As a freshman at the University of Oregon, the Ducks have three more seasons to utilize Brenner's skills and athleticism as an outside hitter. This season thus far, she has a team season high attack percentage of .651, achieved at Stanford on November 18, 2011. She also holds the team season high of kills with 31 in five sets, also at Stanford. These team highs are indicative of Brenner's comfort level on the court recently.

"The last couple of weeks I have definitely felt a lot more comfortable out on the court," said Brenner. "The first few weeks I was a little nervous and was asking myself, "Should I get that ball, should I not?" but now I just feel comfortable."

Brenner is also feeling a connection with the rest of the team, which has led to some of her success on the court.

"I feel that I fit in and know the strengths of other people and we all work very well together," she said.

Needless to say, Brenner and the University of Oregon are a good fit. A Portland, Ore. native, Brenner is close enough to home so that she has familial support while still being able to enjoy the college experience. She also credits her decision on the strength of the volleyball program and the chemistry of the team.

"I liked that volleyball program here was up and coming and it just keeps getting better and better," she said. "Plus, the coaches and the girls are a lot of fun to be around."

Brenner's most successful game to date was against Stanford, where she set the team highs for attack percentage, kills, and total points. She believes the reason she was so successful that game was because of the focus Coach Jim Moore instilled in the players.

"I really think that Coach made a point to make sure we were focused and were focusing on the game for the entire day," said Brenner. "From the second I woke up that morning he made sure that I was able to focus on that game later that night and made sure I was doing everything I could to be prepared."
 
This intensity on focus and preparedness has continued throughout the season, where the Ducks have beaten a number of high-ranking teams, including the No. 3 ranked California Bears, the No. 5 ranked Stanford Cardinal, No. 1 ranked UCLA Bruins, and No.1 ranked Penn State, Brenner's favorite road venue to date.

"I really liked playing at Penn State," said Brenner. "It was so cool how many people they had in their gym and how we were able to upset them. Coach (Moore) before the game said, 'Silence the crowd.'"

And silence the crowd they did. The Ducks defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions on their home court in 4 sets, ending Penn State's 94-match home winning streak. This win was one to remember for Brenner.

"It was so cool in the fourth game when we were up the arena was just dead silent," she said. "The entire arena was just packed and we had them silent."

Many freshman student-athletes struggle to find the perfect equilibrium between sports, the increased workload that accompanies college courses, and experiencing college for the first time, but Brenner is no stranger to finding that balance. In high school, she played softball, volleyball, basketball, and ran track. However, she does acknowledge the positive impact of the University of Oregon's academic support for its student athletes.

"As a freshman, you have to have so many tutor hours a week and the tutors that I have for all of my classes really help me get all my stuff done and stay organized so that I can focus on volleyball," she said.

Right now, focusing on volleyball is a main priority for Brenner. After receiving their fifth NCAA Tournament invitation in the last six years, the Ducks are looking to do well and prove themselves as serious contenders. They will head to Hawai'i to play the Mountain West Conference champion Colorado State this Thursday.

"I am excited to play a lot of other good teams," said Brenner. "The Pac-12 is really tough and I know there are a lot of other good teams out there. I can't wait to get to play some other people and do well."

As for future goals, Brenner hopes to achieve a lot, including a conference and possibly a national championship.

"I definitely want to win the Pac-12 conference at some point, and I always want to win that national championship, that would be so awesome," she said.

Brenner also hopes to play professionally after college. Even as a freshman, her talents on the court are shining through and will allow her to be successful in her future athletic endeavors.

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