Athletes of the Week: Amiaya Hansen and Daniel Wardell help their teams to volleyball state championships

Athletes of the Week: Hansen and Wardell
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:20 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Amiaya Hansen helped the Craig Panthers to the ASAA 2A state championship title, and Daniel Wardell helped the Tanalian Lynx to the ASAA mix six state title.

Both of their seasons ended with the same result, but the path that they took to get there couldn’t be more different.

For the Craig Panthers and one of their senior leaders Amiaya Hansen, the road to the 2A state title was tough. They had to scratch and claw their way with every single match before the championship match went to four sets. Then in the championship game after all of that effort, they got down two sets to one before leaning on their experience and positivity to force a fifth set and eventually win it all.

“She is an all-around leader,” Craig volleyball head coach Shannon Issacs said. “She is my captain and it’s because she is more positive for everybody and she makes really smart decisions. She knows that not every win has to be on that kill status, but she does have a really great swing and she helps her defense and she’s a middle, so it makes it easier to push her in and out and everywhere.”

At first look, Hansen doesn’t jump off of the court with her hitting ability, but the longer she plays, Hansen always seems to be in the right spot — whether that means she is getting the big block to end the set or she gets the kill that turns the momentum around.

“You’re putting everything you are onto that floor and so is your team, so when you finally win and all that hard work pays off it feels like the best thing in the world,” Hansen said.

So while the Craig Panthers had to scratch and claw their way to the title like real panthers, unlike their animal mascot they had to work together to get the job done.

On the mix six side of the tournament, the Tanalian Lynx and Daniel Wardell’s road to the title couldn’t have been any different than the 2A Panthers. The Lynx went undefeated in all of their matches with their closest set being a 25-21 win over Golovin.

While Wardell really stole the show with his spectacular spikes, it was really a team effort to win the team’s second straight ASAA mix six state championship.

“Volleyball is a team sport,” Wardell said. “There is no I in team. Everything out there is played as a team and that’s a huge part of our win is because we want to work hard and we are a team together. We don’t play with just individual players, we play as a team.”

The mix six format of volleyball fits perfectly for the small rural villages of Alaska that don’t quite have the numbers for a full girl’s team. The sport helps get kids involved who otherwise would have to wait for basketball season to have a sport to play. Many of the athletes in mix six have basketball as their main sport, but once they get into the sport and on the mix six court that changes.

“When I was younger I would always say ‘oh, volleyball is not that hard, you know basketball is where it’s at,” Wardell said. “More and more I realize volleyball takes some serious discipline it’s a really rewarding sport.”

The sport rewarded both Wardell and Hansen state championships they will remember for the rest of their lives.