Mikayla Powell is living up to her nickname.
Known as “Crunch Time” at Johnson County Community College, the 2020-21 NJCAA Division II Player of the Year has brought her late game ability to the Austin Peay volleyball team.
“I may not be getting kill after kill after kill throughout the whole match, but when it comes to the time when we need a side-out or we need to get ahead if we’re behind, I can bring that aspect,” Powell said.
“When it comes down to the nitty gritty and when it gets really close in a game … that’s why (JCCC head coach Jennifer Ei) gave me that nickname, because I can put the ball away when we need it.”
As a sophomore, Powell recorded 398 points and 363 kills as Johnson County earned its second ever national title.
Sixteen matches into this season, the junior is second on the team in points (162), kills (137) and blocks (43). Powell sparked the Governors (10-6, 4-0 OVC) in limited minutes to a sweep of SIUE with a first-set clinching kill on Saturday.
Her and outside hitter Brooke Moore (199 kills, 167 digs) form a one-two punch that has APSU tied for first in the Ohio Valley Conference standings.
“She’s got a very good, deceptive swing on her,” said Moore, who poured in a 22-kill performance on Friday. “You never know where she’s going to go, so I think she’s very hard to play against. In practice, it’s tough, and she mixes up her shots really well.”
Head coach Taylor Mott said that Powell – the program’s first left-handed hitter since 2016 – fits right into a program that lost just two players from last spring. She’s tallied double-digit kills in three of her last five games and ranks second in the conference with a .279 hitting percentage.
“(Left-handed hitters) just bring a different dimension,” Mott said. “They can do different things that righties don’t do. They’re getting a little bit more common, but you used to not see very many lefties, so it’s kind of hard to play against them. Mikayla’s done an awesome job.
“Winners find a way to win, and I always think it’s important to recruit athletes that come from winning programs. If you don’t know what it’s like to win, sometimes it’s hard to get kids to believe what it feels like to win.”
With five straight victories and a national championship already under her belt, Powell hopes her postseason experience can lift APSU to its first OVC Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017.
“I know what it feels like to be in that really tense moment with hundreds of people watching you,” she said. “I think I can help bring not only energy but a calmness (and) levelheadedness to the court when we get to that time.”