PARKERSBURG - Cassandra Powell doesn't need to close her eyes and imagine being a Division I athlete.
Her future teammates and coach at Mount Saint Mary's University have already welcomed her with open arms and made her feel a part of the program.
Wednesday afternoon, the Parkersburg High School senior made it official by signing her national letter of intent to attend the university based in Emmitsburg, Md. Powell is completing her fourth year of varsity tennis at this week's Class AAA regional meet at Erickson All-Sports Facility and hopefully extends her high school career into next week's state tournament in Charleston.
Photo by Kerry Patrick
Parkersburg High School senior Cassandra Powell, seated in the front row, signs a national letter of intent to play Division I tennis at Mount Saint Mary’s. Also pictured in the front row are her parents, Bob and Gwen Powell. In the back row, from left, are PHS coach Pam Reeves, Mountain River Physical Therapy trainer Joe Leaman and PHS counselor Carla McCay.
Powell selected the 'Mount' by narrowing her short list of four schools, including three from the Division I variety.
"I could see myself being there at Mount Saint Mary's," Powell said. "I don't know if it was love at first sight with the campus and school, but after my visit players on the team would contact me and made me feel part of the team.
"The more I looked into the program, the more I could see myself fitting in with the classes. I closed my eyes and could see myself at the school."
Powell first picked up a tennis racquet at the age of 4 and remembers taking summer lessons under PHS coach Pam Reeves at Jackson Park. Her eye-hand coordination caught the attention of Reeves.
"We had just started letting the 4 and 5 year olds come to lessons," Reeves remembers. "We wanted to see what the interest level was at their age. I do remember Cassandra starting at that point, and I could tell she had good things in store for her."
Powell pinpoints being 10 or 11 years old when she started to gain a love for the sport. As a member of the Jackson Middle School tennis program, she played No. 1 singles two straight years.
Once she reached the high school level, Powell made an immediate impact and qualified for the state tournament every year in both singles and doubles.
"Cassandra is a perfectionist," Reeves said. "She will challenge you to make each shot your best. Signing as a Division I athlete is a tremendous honor and very rewarding to see a young person work so hard to come along so well."
Powell won a state championship in No. 2 singles during her sophomore year, but has yet to reach the pinnacle in state doubles despite advancing to the finals on two occasions.
"I really like the team environment at the high school level because in year-round tennis and tournaments, it's just you - you are not on a team," Powell said. "I like the support of my teammates and traveling together. Once this season is over, I will miss hanging around my teammates."
On hand for Powell's signing were her parents, Bob and Gwen Powell, coach Reeves, her trainer Joe Leaman from Mountain River Physical Therapy and her counselor Carla McCay.
"With the help of my trainer, I can really tell a big difference on the court with my endurance," Powell said. "My parents have really been supportive ever since I was little."