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The evolution of IU water polo's Emily Powell



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Junior Emily Powell is the captain of IU's water polo team. Powell is from Brisbane, Australia, and is an international relations major.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

Bloomington might just be the perfect place for junior captain of Indiana women's water polo's Emily Powell.

It’s ironic because Powell, a 20-year-old international relations major from Brisbane, Australia, had never heard of IU.

“It’s hard at home to play water polo and study, so I wanted to come to the States to play high quality water polo and get a good education,” Powell said. “I don’t even know how I heard about IU, actually. Me and my mom just started emailing schools, and things started happening from there.”

Once Powell received a scholarship to play at IU, she had to start prepping to come to the U.S. by taking the SAT and learning about the training methods. Although it was a lot of work, it was worth it for Powell.

“It was an amazing opportunity, and it wouldn’t have been possible without that scholarship,” Powell said. “So it was very rewarding because our family had started that process about a year and a half in advance."

Although Powell looked at other schools including Michigan and Brown University, she didn’t think those schools had what IU had to offer.

“I feel like I did make the right choice with choosing IU," Powell said. "We still play some of the schools I looked at originally, and I don’t think they have anything on their team that we don’t in terms of culture."

It wasn’t always an easy journey for Powell. She was a much smaller athlete when she got to IU for her first semester.

“When I first got here I wasn’t used to the physicality or the jump-in training, so I struggled a lot my freshman year,” Powell said. “I also came straight into season, so I didn’t have that first semester to get used to my new routine, being in America and at a new university."

And after the struggles, Powell decided to give IU another chance.

"I really didn’t think I would make it through, but I’m glad I gave myself another chance and came back for another semester because I would have regretted it if I had left IU," Powell said.

Now in her third season at IU, Powell is a team captain.

“It’s been really rewarding,” Powell said. “When I first got here I was really shy and didn’t really know my place on the team, so it’s just been nice to see my development and see myself grow as a person these past couple of years, so it’s been great.”

Powell was honored in January at the IU women’s basketball game with other international student-athletes during halftime.

“America celebrates success very well, and it was really nice to be there with one of my best friends on the team who is also an international student from Canada," Powell said. "It just showed the big step we both took to come to the United States, and it was really nice to be recognized for the hard work we are putting in here at IU as well.”

After winning their season opener this year, the Hoosiers have lost their last six games. It’s the first year of Coach Ryan Castle’s tenure at IU that he hasn’t had a senior on the team, 

"This year we really just want to build a good culture within the team,” Powell said. “We are really new, we lost a lot of seniors last year and we are playing in a new conference with tougher competition, so I think our goal is just working on ourselves as a team and making progress every time we play with each other this year.”

Through the struggles and triumphs, Powell’s journey to Bloomington continues to provide results for her team. With two more seasons left, the once shy freshman a long ways from home has made her presence felt in the pool.

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