PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Geoff Powell always knew he would be on a collegiate volleyball team he just didn’t think it would be outside of California.
Powell, grew up in Claremont, California, a suburb about 40-minutes from downtown Los Angeles and close enough to be in the epicenter of high-quality volleyball programs, both high school and club teams.
Ironically, Powell didn’t get much attention from recruiters despite being an athletically gifted and award-winning player. Powell, who is 6-foot three-inches, was named as a senior to Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 selection, Pacific League MVP, Claremont High School's Athlete of the Year, and First Team All-CIF.
Still he wasn’t garnering a lot of attention from top tier college programs.
Powell thinks he knows why he wasn’t a blue chip prospect.
“I started out as an opposite and most guys at that position are really big,” Powell said. “I was 6-3 and I think that was a major reason why I didn’t get looked at that much.”
Lewis head coach Dan Friend was more than happy to lavish Powell with attention. He saw something that other coaches apparently didn’t and was all to happy to have him on his squad.
“We had reached out to him because he was such an athletic kid,” Lewis said. “I went out to Anaheim to visit someone else and he decided to go a different direction and I had money open up. I talked to his club coach and he said he as still looking and was thinking about UCLA but he hadn’t made a decision.”
Lewis was able to persuade Powell to come out for a campus visit and let the university sell itself.
“I invited him out for a visit during one of our big games,” Friend said. “There was a huge crowd, 11,000 people packed in there and we won and I think he had a great experience. Sometimes things like that just fall into place.”
As good as his first visit was, his first year was equally as miserable. Powell redshirted and the combination of not playing and enduring his first Midwest winter with the worst blizzard in 10 years and it was totally overwhelming.
“I was close to quitting because I wanted to play,” Powell said. “It was rough. It was my first year and in some ways it worked out. I got to focus on school because when they were traveling I was home, so that helped. I got good grades but it was tough.”
But Friend knew Powell would be a top player, it just wasn’t going to be that first year.
“We love taking guys and training them,” Friend said. “Guys that maybe were a little under the radar and ultimately have stepped up to big roles and been great players for us. We look for that athletic kid and Geoff definitely fit into that mold.”
Still halfway through Powell’s second year and he still wasn’t starting and it was getting frustrating. Then midway through the season, Friend tweaked his lineup and put Powell on the other side of the court.
“He didn’t come in to the starting lineup until February of that year,” Friend said. “He made such a push though and was voted freshman of the year in the conference and was on all-tournament team in the NCAA’s.
I think he’s learned to be patient.”
It is one of many qualities he has refined while being at Lewis.
“He’s a determined young man as well as a great volleyball player,” Friend said. “The great thing about Geoff is his care-free energetic attitude. He comes to practice everyday works hard he’s upbeat, he’s positive, he has a smile on his face he’s exciting to watch and I think it’s an infectious attitude. To have one of those guys as part of your team it lets other guys see that and it allows them to be themselves. He’s been a joy to coach for me.”
His final year has been an even bigger challenge. Powell took on an internship in Chicago, which recently became a full-time job, so since August he has been working as a computer software developer for six hours a day, practicing two hours with the team and them going to school to finish his Masters in Information Security.
“I thought it wouldn’t be that bad but it was a struggle,” Powell said. “I pushed through it and it was a lot of handle.”
Just another reason Friend is so impressed with Powell.
“I think he’s exceeded what I expected of him” Friend said. “Geoff could play overseas if he wanted to but he has a job and wants to do that. He works, then comes to practice then goes to class at night. Once he graduates he’ll have a full time job. It just shows his dedication to what we are doing here.”
Despite the rough start to his collegiate career and the loss in the finals Powell is happy with his career.
“I’ve gotten more than I ever thought I would,” Powell said. “This is what I have thought about since I first picked up a ball my freshman year of high school. It was a dream. I would go to my coach’s house and watch the championship and I never thought I would play in a final.”