Tanalian takes ASAA mix 6 volleyball state title
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After a runner-up finish last season, the Tanalian Lynx put on a dominating undefeated performance to win the 2021 ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Mix Six Volleyball State Championship.
The Tanalian Lynx went up against the Shishmaref Northern Lights in the championship game, a rematch of a contest earlier in the tournament where the Lynx came out on top 3-0. Tanalian hadn’t dropped a set the entire tournament, but the Northern Lights came to play, shocking the Lynx by winning the first set by the razor thin margin of 27-25. After dropping the first set, it was like Tanalian flipped a switch, going on to dominate the rest of the match 25-15, 25-5, and 25-13.
“It feels great. It was pretty upsetting last year but this year we brought it back and I am really proud of us and we worked hard for this all season and we just put in the work every day” Tanalian junior Ellah Wardell said.
Last year Tanalian came as close as a team could come to winning the championship, taking a 2-0 lead after the first two sets. Then one of their star players went down with an ankle injury and the tide turned. Nikolaevsk went on to win three straight sets and then the fifth and final “if necessary” game 30-28. The players on this years team who were a part of last years championship game were quick to remember what happened, and said it makes the championship win even sweeter.
“I think so I was bummed because one our teammates Caleb he loved volleyball it was his passion and that was his senior year and that was a real bummer for us for him to loose and also Katie and Maliah who were also on our team and so I was just it was cool because we kind of went out here and played for them” Tanalian Junior, Daniel Wardell said.
Ellah Wardell and Daniel Wardell are twins, and both of them played a big part in the success of the team. The family connection is something easy to see on the court, but both of them say that the whole team is a family, not just them.
The two teams in the championship game took very different paths. Tanalian went undefeated, while Shishmaref had to fight their way through the losers bracket after losing to the Lynx earlier in the tournament. The Northern Lights had to win two matches against George Morgan and Shaktoolik before they could even take on the Lynx in the championship game on Saturday. While the Northern Lights were obviously fatigued from playing so many matches, they put up a fight and their cheering section showed their appreciation throughout the match.
The Tanalian Lynx only had only one senior on their entire roster. With that type of talent returning it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lynx back in the championship game again next season.
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