Illini find leader in senior Knue

Then-junior Brianna Knue slams the ball in a doubles match against Minnesota at the Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday, April 24, 2005. Knue and her partner Macall Harkins won the match, 8-5, and Illinois defeated Minnesota, 7-0. Daily Illini

Then-junior Brianna Knue slams the ball in a doubles match against Minnesota at the Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday, April 24, 2005. Knue and her partner Macall Harkins won the match, 8-5, and Illinois defeated Minnesota, 7-0. Daily Illini

By Harini Ganesh

The women’s tennis team is still young and learning, and a youngster could use someone older to lead and teach her. For the Illini women, senior Brianna Knue is their role model.

“She’s very friendly and outgoing,” sophomore Macall Harkins said. “She speaks her mind but in a good way, as a leader.”

Knue is the team captain this year and is commended by her coaches and teammates alike as an honest, straightforward person who has always put her best foot forward for the team.

“She manages to tell it like it is and everybody respects her,” assistant coach JoAnne Russell said. “And really likes her as a person.”

When Knue was a freshman, she looked up to the seniors as examples for leadership. Following their method of leading by example, Knue feels showing rather than telling her teammates is more important in improving their game and skills.

“There are people who can talk the talk, but it’s all about walking the walk,” Knue said. “And to be a good leader that’s what you have to do, especially on a team.”

As captain, Knue has the responsibility for leading the team. But, Russell said, she has always been about the team since day one. She makes sure everybody is ready in case of an injury, says what needs to be said and makes everyone around her better.

“It really hasn’t been anything super-special than any other years,” Knue said on her captaincy. “I don’t think of myself as being anything different than anyone else on the team.”

Harkins and Knue played doubles together last season and are probable partners this year. They had also played tournaments in the International Tennis Federation circuit the summer before Harkins joined the team.

“She tells me what’s on her mind or what I need to work on,” Harkins said of Knue. “In doubles, she always keeps me positive and it’s really helped me improve as a player.”

Harkins added that having Knue as a captain doesn’t make her much different than usual. She has always worked to improve the team, not only on the courts but also in the community. As athletes, she feels that they are a focal point, and they should take the chance to help out and do good things.

Having played high school basketball and tennis, Knue is used to the concept of a team atmosphere and the skills needed to be a leader. She is also co-chair of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) as well as the student athlete representative for the athletic board. With SAC, she talks about how to get teams involved with the community.

“Both are great opportunities,” she said, adding that it was an honor to be part of the committees.

Her team and coaches commend Knue for her skills both as a leader, as well as for her personality. As captain she has more responsibility, but general agreement is that she already has proved herself as a leader. Knue herself has set a goal this year that everyone has to be a leader in their own way for Illinois to be a better team.

“If everyone steps up and does what they need to do and helps each other out,” Knue said. “Then we’ll be the best team we can be.”