But it's special to be the first at anything.
Powell recently became the first boys prep lacrosse player from the north Puget Sound region to commit to a NCAA Division-1 school, announcing his commitment to Canisius College in late July. The long-stick midfielder/defender is a senior-to-be at Snohomish.
"It was weird," Powell said of being the first lacrosse commit from the north Sound region. "It'll be cool though to be able to tell my kids that I was the first and was able to play D-1 lacrosse."
Powell's coach at Snohomish, Chris Cote, said that Powell is very deserving of a D-1 scholarship. This past season Cote would position Powell, who was recently named to the All-State third team as defender, on the opposing team's best offensive player for the entire game and was confident Powell would neutralize him.
"He's very tenacious on defense," Cote said of what makes Powell a good defender. "He's got excellent stick skills and can use it almost surgically to take the ball away from the other player. He's got good feet and the ability to battle players and good speed to get away. He's a well-rounded player."
Powell's commitment is a sign of the sport's growth in the Northwest. Because most D-1 college programs are clustered on the East Coast -- the furthest D-1 program west of the Mississippi is in Denver -- getting noticed by college coaches can be tough. But recently the sport's growth has opened up new opportunities for lacrosse players like Powell, who was recruited personally by two D-1 coaches: Canisius' Randy Mearns and Eastern College's Kevin Wallace.
"Mearns and Wallace talked about focusing on West Coast now because it's really a hidden gem," Powell added. "Coaches didn't think of us before. It's kind of like 'They don't know lacrosse over there.' But now they recognize that there are good players from here."
It also helps to play on a select team that travels. Powell is on the Seattle Starz select team that plays in tournaments as far east as Pennsylvania. Many of his Starz' teammates, including Hank Bethke (Ohio State), Spencer Noonan (Fairfield) and Colin MacIlvennie (Maryland), are heading east to play college lacrosse.
"It's imperative for lacrosse players, if they can afford it, to play select because it gets them in front of college coaches that might not otherwise see them play," Cote said.
Mearns and Wallace both took notice of Powell, who was invited to a visit both schools in Philadelphia (Eastern) and Buffalo, N.Y. (Canisius) earlier in the summer. Powell said he liked Eastern but fell in love with Canisius. Two weeks later he made his decision. "I like the campus and we went downtown and Buffalo is sweet," Powell said. "You have the Sabres, Bills and, of course, the Bandits, the local pro lacrosse team. There's just a ton to do there."
For Powell, a lacrosse scholarship wasn't always the goal. Like most Northwest kids interested in sports, Powell's first love was football. But as a fifth-grader Powell was introduced to the sport of lacrosse when he tagged along to friend Jarrett Toy's lacrosse practice. He borrowed a stick and played wall ball -- practice tossing the ball against a wall and catching it on the rebound -- and was hooked.
Powell decided to join a team and was designated a goalie on the first day of practice. Mistakenly he ordered the wrong stick -- Powell ordered a 60-inch lacrosse stick that defenders use instead of a goalie's 40-incher. It was a mistake that turned out to be fortuitous.
"I hated playing goalie," Powell said. "They moved me to defender and I was just super comfortable."
As Powell's ability grew, the sport of lacrosse increased in popularity in the Puget Sound region as well. He and Toy gave up football as freshmen and concentrated on lacrosse. The decision paid off for both: Toy, who recently transferred back to Snohomish after playing lacrosse for Eastside Catholic the past three seasons, is headed to Mount St. Mary's to play lacrosse. The trail that Powell and Toy have blazed will likely help future lacrosse players in Snohomish County.
"I didn't think it would be that big," Powell said of the growth of the sport. "We didn't know we'd do this. It's really cool to be a part of something like that."
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