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Perseverance key for Powell’s returns from injury

Photo by Brian Georgeson

Photo by Brian Georgeson

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Darian Powell looked at her left wrist and smiled as she ran her fingers over the tattoo just below her palm. The word “persevere” is printed in small black letters next to a cross. She just scored a goal and assisted the game winner in Marquette’s overtime win over Butler Sunday afternoon, but there was a time three years ago where it looked like she may never have a chance to star for Marquette.

“Back then I had a lot of injuries. It was very hard to go through that stuff but, I mean, I overcame it,” Powell said. “It’s part of life.”

Two years ago, as a redshirt sophomore, Powell made her debut for Marquette women’s soccer in the season opener against Loyola-Chicago. After missing her first two entire seasons due to injury, Powell scored two goals in a 3-0 win.

“It was a blur,” Powell said after her debut.

She went on to lead the team in goals that season, and then she did so again last year.

This year started off slow though, as Powell suffered a setback at the end of last season.

“It’s been hard for her since about this time last year when she wasn’t 100 percent,” head coach Markus Roeders said. “You know the offseason was pretty much all about just trying to scratch and claw and trying to get better and getting healthier.”

Now, as a redshirt senior, Powell is tied for the team lead in goals and she’s just two shy of joining Marquette’s top 10 all-time goal scorers.

“For her to score a goal again today, she’s got that knack,” Roeders said. “She’s got that killer instinct and I couldn’t be happier for her.”

Any time an athlete is unable to compete for two years, doubt begins to creep in about what the future holds. Powell had all the pedigree and talent to succeed at a high Division I level, but her health stood in the way. How does a young athlete cope with that level of adversity?

“A lot of prayer, honestly,” Powell said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. The injuries really took a toll on me mentally, but just turning to God, basically, was what got me through it.”

Though Powell is designated as a redshirt senior, you won’t find her among the 10 seniors on the team’s poster – that’s because her Marquette career won’t end in 2016. Powell applied for and was granted a sixth year with the team through the NCAA’s “medical hardship” extension rule.

Because Powell missed two complete seasons due to “circumstances beyond the student-athlete’s and the institution’s control,” she is allowed to compete for a fourth season.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. The injuries really took a toll on me mentally, but just turning to God, basically, was what got me through it.”

Powell’s original application was denied due to a clerical error, but after a second submission she was quickly granted a sixth year.

The La Porte City, Iowa, native knew immediately after her second year of injuries that she wanted to apply for an extra season.

“I was like, ‘I want four years,’” Powell said. “I don’t want to cut it short. I want to get everything I can out of this place.”

And now she can. As appreciative as Powell is of having another season to compete, her head coach may be even more so.

“She’s a leader for our team,” Roeders said. “I’m just really grateful for her, too, after everything she’s been through … to go out there everyday and plug away.”

“We’re going to have to continue to rely on her. … Hopefully, maybe, her best days are still ahead of her.”

As Marquette’s first ever sixth-year player, Powell will play an important role on next year’s team.

“It’s a little bit like what she’s already doing now,” Roeders said. “She’s a senior now and she will be a senior again. … She will have to play a huge part.”

Roeders struggled to recall who played the ball through to set up Carrie Madden’s game winner Sunday afternoon. He looked down at the box score and turned to Powell who was walking his way.

“Hey Dare, you played that final ball?”

Powell responded with a smile, “Yeah.”

“Nice.”

Then they hugged as Powell congratulated her head coach of five years on his 300th win.

She credits Roeders’ positivity as one of the keys to her success, especially during the low points.

“(He’s) honestly one of the most influential people for me,” Powell said. “Even when I was injured, he kept encouraging me, ‘It’s going to get better, just keep working.’”

With one regular season game left in 2016, Powell has a chance to be part of a title winning team. Marquette takes on DePaul Friday night with a chance to split the BIG EAST regular season crown.

She’s preparing for the big game the same way she’s battled for her entire collegiate career.

“Just never giving up, you know. I have ‘perseverance’ tattooed on me, so it’s just like, ‘Always keep going.’”

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