Meet A Gee-Gee

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Karina Krueger Schwanke | Women’s Volleyball

Megan McArdle | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Justin Labelle 

“Meet a Gee-Gee” takes a look at the people under the jerseys. Whether they’re varsity athletes or otherwise, we ask the players questions you want answers to. We get the dirt, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Meet Karina Krueger Schwanke: a fourth-year arts student at the U of O who hails from Brazil and is a left side player for the women’s volleyball team. She sat down with us at the Fulcrum to discuss the challenges of balancing sports and academics and tell us what being a Gee-Gee means to her.

The Fulcrum: What got you interested in playing volleyball at the university level?

Karina Krueger Schwanke: In Brazil, I used to play for a club, so it was different, because people prioritized volleyball so much and everything is secondary. So coming here I’m like, whoa, what a great balance! I can get a chance to get an education and play volleyball, you know? It’s such a win-win situation.

In your opinion, what is the most important skill a volleyball player should have, and why?

Volleyball comes with practice. The skill that you should have is [to] know how to be a team player; to understand that everything that you do affects your team and everything that your team does affects you. Being a team player, caring about your teammates, and everything else comes with practice; [it’s] not something that can be taught.

What is it like balancing sports and school?

For me, it’s quite the challenge. I mean, even with the language right now … I need to spend so much more time because I need to go back to the dictionary sometimes and make sure I understand what the professors ask for. Even the way that people write the essays is so different from what I was used to in Brazil, even though I’m in the same program as I was there. Our schedules also make it a little bit tougher, because when I’m not in class, I’m going to be at practice, or I’m going to be working out, or I’m going to be in one of my “little jobs”—part-time jobs that keep me really, really busy.

Who was your idol growing up, and why?

I need to say our left side hitter from [the Brazilian] national team, Giba [Gilberto Amauri de Godoy Filho]. He’s super well known and respected for his career as a volleyball player. He’s a name that I will always bring up, but I feel like the adult team that was playing in my club was the one I was looking after.

What do you think is the best part of being a Gee-Gee?

There’s so many. It just feels like a big family. For me, coming from a different country, I never felt lonely being here. I just love my team so much, and it’s amazing how we have each other.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face when playing volleyball?

It’s when I try to communicate with my teammates, because I just wear my heart on my sleeve. I feel that I can’t be too aggressive sometimes, and I need to make sure I calm down, team first, [and] find the right English words in order to communicate.

Do you or the team have any good-luck rituals you do before playing?

I don’t think there’s a superstition or a ritual that we have. Two and a half hours before the game starts, we’re just in the team room because we just want to be there, and [we] laugh and we listen to music, and get ready before the game.

Do you have any plans for after you graduate?

I have so many plans that I’m confused. I always had this dream of going to play overseas and see how it is and how far I could make it. I have the option of coming back and going for a master’s degree because I have another two years of eligibility at university, which is something that I will always keep in mind too. There’s always the option of moving back to Brazil, but I’m just taking it one thing at a time.

My teammates would vote me most likely to _______.

It’s definitely something related to my accent, and the fact that when I sometimes don’t know the word that I’m looking for, I will say it anyway. And it always turns out to be a swearing word or something bad, and I had no idea.

What is your motto, or words that you live by?

You can always be better. You can always work harder. There’s no limit, because you do not know how far you can go.