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Ella May Powell: Setting the Huskies up for success

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Ella May Powell: Setting the Huskies up for success

Ella May Powell sets up the ball while the other players prepare to receive it during Washington's game against Utah at Alaska Airlines Arena on Sept. 22, 2021.

Over the past couple months, it’s been clear that the No.13 Washington women’s volleyball team has a multitude of players contributing to offense. Even more clear this year is that there’s one person that this electrifying offense could not do without: junior setter Ella May Powell.

Joining the team as a freshman, Powell is now a veteran returner for Washington. In three years, she’s seen several tournament appearances, a big injury and recovery, and many teammates come and go. 

In her first year, Powell immediately entered the starting lineup, helping lead the team to the Sweet 16 with an average of 10.71 assists per set, the fifth highest average in the Pac-12 conference. On top of her impressive amount of assists, Powell’s 33 aces and 2.31 digs per set on average warranted a nomination to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.

From her freshman year on, Powell continued to grow as a player and become a crucial part of the Husky team.

“It was a lot of work and a lot of adversity through those early years,” head coach Keegan Cook said. “She was planting seeds for her [potential] and now we’re all benefiting from her experience in playing as many matches as she has.”

In 2020, Powell contributed massively to the team’s Final Four run, averaging 10.23 assists per set and 0.33 service aces per set. She was named to the 2020 AVCA All-America First team and became the first setter in eight years to win the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after back-to-back wins against Colorado. On top of that, Powell proved to be at the top of her position, as she won the 2020 Pac-12 Setter of the Year.

“I respect a lot of the setters within our conference but to get that award is really surreal,” Powell said. “With all the good setters in our conference it’s such an honor … I’m really grateful for it.”

Just when it seemed like she couldn’t get any better at the sport, Powell took to leading Washington again this season, putting up career-high numbers so far this year. Over the past couple months, the junior setter is averaging a career-best 0.34 aces per set and is currently tied for her career-best assists per set at 10.71. 

While Powell’s offense has been exceptional this season, her contribution on the defensive end has also been undeniable. With an average of 2.45 digs per set, Powell has again proven her strength as an all-around player.

“[Powell] is more willing to do things that are difficult or that she is not good at,” Cook said. “That’s a sign of a really high-level player when they’re still trying to, in their later years, turn over every stone to become great.”

With her numerous contributions over the years, it’d be hard to imagine Washington’s team without Powell at setter. However, that was almost a reality. 

When deciding which school to commit to, Powell revealed that she originally did not want to visit UW but her parents forced her to.

Looking back on that decision now, Powell faces one realization that no child ever wants to: Her parents were right.

“[My parents] tell me ‘I told you so’ all the time,” Powell said. “But I couldn’t be happier with my decision to be here [at Washington]… It is my second home now.”

Powell and the Huskies (18-4, 11-3 Pac-12) go on the road to face Stanford on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

Reach reporter Spencer Smith at Twitter: @spencerssmith24

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