Powell hopes to sweep Howard to success on the soccer field

September 25, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Rebecca Powell started playing defense for Howard's soccer team by accident -- her sister's.

Two years ago as a sophomore, Powell was a striker. Then an ankle injury sidelined her sister Camille, and coach Dave Vezzi called on Rebecca to switch to sweeper.

jTC "I guess he must have thought it ran in the family," said Powell with a laugh.

Actually, Vezzi knew that Powell had played defense for her club team, the Columbia Cleats. An Olympic Development Program player, she also had earned a defensive position on the state under-14 team in 1991 and on the state under-17 team in 1993.

For the Lions, Powell filled in so well that she was named second-team All-State and second-team All-County that year. She's started at sweeper ever since.

"I'd love to have her playing offense," said Vezzi. "But I usually try to build the strength of the team from the defense forward. I consider her the best overall player on the team, and I'd rather be strong there than up front. She anchors the team from that position."

Powell never minded the switch.

"It's challenging," said Powell, an All-County first-team pick last fall. "You have to make a lot of decisions about when to come out and challenge someone with the ball or when to stay back. That was probably the toughest part for me when I first started -- getting used to where I should be positioning myself and when I have to commit."

Now, the 4.0 student knows how to make those decisions, and that kind of game sense makes up for the only part of her game that isn't exceptional -- her speed.

Powell is still fast, but she can't match the blazing speed of a few of the county's top strikers. Instead, she makes up for it with positioning.

In addition to that athletic ability and game sense, Powell has the right disposition to handle her critical defensive position. She's unflappable.

"Nothing fazes her," said Vezzi, "or if it does, it's going to be hard for you to ever know about it."

That even temperament serves Powell well on the basketball court, too.

Last March, the Lions' point guard guided her team on a Cinderella march to the state Class 3A championship. In one of the most remarkable turnarounds of the year, the Lions rebounded from a 9-11 regular season to reach the sixth and final regional playoff berth before going all the way to a 47-41 victory over DuVal for the title.

Throughout the playoffs, Powell's game could not have been more consistent.

She did not shoot often but when she did, she hit almost everything, going 7-for-7 from the field in the two state tournament games. The irreplaceable ball handler never left the court during any playoff game as the Lions' man-to-man defense smothered one opponent after another.

For Powell, the state title is the highlight so far of her high school athletic career. Just before the regional playoffs, though, Powell and her teammates were ready to end the season.

"Our season wasn't the greatest," said Powell. "By the time playoffs started, I know I was tired of basketball. I thought the end was near and I was looking forward to it. But then, we won a game and beat Mount Hebron and I think that changed everything. Then we just started having fun again, because we knew we could play with any team."

Despite her success in high school, Powell doesn't plan to play a sport in college instead opting to concentrate on her studies probably in a math-related field. She has narrowed her college list to about four schools including Dartmouth, where her sister Camille is a sophomore English major.

In the meantime, Powell would like to see the Lions make a run at the state soccer title this fall. At 1-1-1 after Friday's 9-0 victory over Laurel, the Lions have a way to go, but they also have the potential to get there.

"Any time you come off a season like last year when we only won three games, you're going to look to improve on that," said Powell, whose team graduated just one starter. "This year, we have a chance to do well."

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