Women’s soccer alum lands assistant coaching job

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Darian Powell (12) led the Golden Eagles in both points and goals during the 2015 season. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Former Marquette women’s soccer forward Darian Powell is joining the Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team as an assistant coach, head coach Jon Sandoval announced in a statement June 8

“I am very excited to welcome Darian to our program,” Sandoval said in the statement. “Her successful playing and coaching experience at the NCAA Division I and professional level will be a valuable asset to our program. Darian understands what is required to be a successful student-athlete. Her experience at the NCAA championship level is what our program is striving to become.”

The Wildcats are a Division II program in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and finished this past season with an overall record of 5-13.

“I feel so blessed for this opportunity to be able to go from player to coach. The game has given me so much throughout the years, and I now hope to give something back,” Powell said in her Instagram post. “I have big goals to help encourage and inspire young women to be the best they can be on and off the field.”

Powell returns to the United States and heads to Marquette, Michigan after spending time in Iceland, most recently playing professionally for the UMFA Afturelding First Division.  

“After I got back (from Iceland) in September, I kind of knew I was done playing. It just wasn’t doing it for me anymore,” Powell said. “I wasn’t ready to walk away from the game yet and I have always wanted to coach.” 

Powell said there were some challenges to the interview process due to the pandemic, but it did not stop her from clicking with Sandoval through phone conversations. 

“Things went pretty smoothly though I wasn’t able to visit the campus,” Powell said. “ I had to do my research online and do it that way, but just seeing the campus and from what I was learning about the team and what he (Sandoval) wanted to do, it felt right to me and where I wanted to start my coaching career.”

Powell and Sandoval both alluded to how sharing similar traits with each other, including a similar coaching style, allowed them to connect and feel comfortable with each other from the beginning. 

“That was the number one thing actually,” Powell said. “He wanted to really build the team’s offense a lot better than it used to be and when he said that, I was like, ‘Finally, someone on the same page who wants to score goals.’ So that is what really turned me on with him right away.” 

Powell unofficially began her coaching career during the summer camps that the Marquette women’s soccer program would hold for youth and high school players around Milwaukee. 

“You share that love of the game and have those unique relationships you build, and that is what drew me in to work with kids and young women,” Powell said. 

She mentioned how being around those kids taught her lessons that she was able to bring onto the field during games. 

“When you are in college it gets kind of serious, so working these camps and coaching these kids, it really made me want to go back to my younger self,” Powell said. “For me, it made me want to have fun again and enjoy playing soccer, so I tried to translate that onto the field as well.  

During her time at Marquette, she helped the Golden Eagles reach three NCAA Tournaments, while winning two Big East Conference Championships, in 2013 and 2016, and two Big East Conference Tournament Championships, in 2012 and 2013.

Sandoval said it is Powell’s winning culture and experience in the postseason that will be most beneficial to his program. 

“With Darian, she is going to bring a level of playing experience that is going to be centered around championships,” Sandoval said. “To win a championship, you have to know the road map it takes to be able to get there and with Darian, she has that. She is going to be able to mentor our players to be able to do the same thing and get them through the dog days of October and into November.” 

Powell mentioned that former Marquette women’s soccer head coach Markus Roeders has helped her throughout this whole process by providing advice. 

“He has sent me different tweets from different coaches and stuff,” Powell said. “He just really encouraged me to put in the work.”

Roeders did not respond to requests for an interview. 

Powell said the former head coach advised her to absorb everything she can in her younger years so that she can thrive as a Division I head coach, which is the ultimate goal. 

In fact, Powell’s new boss even compared her enthusiasm to learn to Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who was the Nothern Michigan quarterbacks and wide receivers coach in 2006 before reaching the NFL in 2008. 

“I see Darian as someone of taking that same path and her starting at NMU is great,” Sandoval said. 

Sandoval added that he was able to learn more about Powell’s personality and character by talking to Roeders. 

“She is a person that is going to get things done,” Sandoval said. “If there is a roadblock somewhere and the end goal is behind it, Darian is an individual, and you can see it through her perseverance, through her injuries, who is going to sway away from that roadblock and is going to find a way to get the job done.” 

Powell ranks eighth in goals with 23 and sixth in match-winning goals with 10 in Marquette program history. The La Porte City, Iowa native also holds the individual record for the quickest elapsed time between goals when she scored two goals in 34 seconds against Loyola Chicago on August 22, 2014.

Sandoval said since Powell joined the Wildcats just 19 days ago, her transition from player to coach is almost seamless. 

“Usually there is a little bit of a learning curve, but with Marquette University being such a great academic university, I don’t see much of a learning curve with her,” Sandoval said. “She is able to come in right away and fit right into our culture and environment.”

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at john.leuzzi@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU