The freshman volleyball team huddle up before a home game against Pflugerville High School on August 30th in the big gym.
Last March, Mary Elizabeth, known to most as M.E., Powell (9) was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, AML. She has been in remission since August 17 and due to the effects of chemotherapy, she has been left unable to play volleyball for this fall 2016 season.
“When I got diagnosed with leukemia, I was in the hospital for six months and when you’re not doing anything you’re not exercising your muscles get really weak,” Powell said. “I still wanted to be a part of the team while I was getting stronger and I could play so I just talked to Coach Brown about it, and so she let me on the team.”
Though knowing Powell would not be physically able to play in the volleyball games, her teammates and coaches knew she had to be a part of the team in some way.
“One of M.E.’s concerns when she got sick was [if she’d] still be able to be on the volleyball team,” Coach Meg Brown said. “I said absolutely. She would have been playing if she had not gotten sick and so we just knew we were going to make that work.”
Whenever she can, Powell goes to practices and games with the team practicing what she can.
“I’ve just been, I go to all the games and practices and i just like do what I can and gradually hopefully I’ll be able to play this season.”
Coming back wasn’t easy for Powell but with the support of her teammates and coaches. She is getting stronger each day. Though she’s not up to the level of her teammates, she does what she can.
“It’s definitely hard, coming back and [my teammates] are so far ahead of me just because they have been practicing this summer,” Powell said. “And I can’t go as hard as they do but they’ve been really supportive of me and they’ve had a lot of patience with me, I think I probably will be able to play soon.”
Powell has inspired and motivated many people such as her teammates and coaches.
“I think the girls knew that M.E. wouldn’t be able to play this year once they found out that she was sick,” Coach Brown said. “I think the girls get excited when they see her and I hope that they’re reminded you know that it’s pretty special that they’re out there and they’re able to play.”
Her fellow teammates know how special Powell is and what it means to have her on the volleyball team.
“It’s a great feeling to know that she’s come this way and that she’s strong enough to play and practice with us,” Taelor Andrews (9) said. “I’m, like, amazed. She’s a definite great role model. And everybody respects her on the team.”
Meeting Powell for the first time this season Coach Juan Carlos Ruiz shares his thoughts on how Powell has touched his life.
“I personally think as a coach, I’m so proud of her, she is participating and working hard to become a better volleyball player,” Coach Ruiz said. “She went through a lot of things in her life and I’m so happy to be her coach. M.E. has the power right now to inspire not only the volleyball players, not only her class not only the Ann Richards school, she has the power to inspire many people in Austin, even in America.”