Sioux senior Britta Hanson fulfills a dream

Britta Hanson remembers being a little girl looking up to the older girls on the volleyball court in Thompson, N.D. "I think I just fell in love with the sport," she said. "In Thompson we had 'volley pals', so I watched the older girls play when ...

Britta Hanson remembers being a little girl looking up to the older girls on the volleyball court in Thompson, N.D.

"I think I just fell in love with the sport," she said. "In Thompson we had 'volley pals', so I watched the older girls play when I was younger and it kind of created a connection. You wanted to be like the older girls so growing up I always wanted to be like them.

"They were always really good and that's what I aspired to be, and one day I got there."

As her senior season comes to a close, Hanson can safely say her childhood dream has been accomplished. She's now the one younger girls look up to on the volleyball court.

Hanson has a laundry list of accomplishments from her time spent at UND. And this weekend, she has the chance to add one more thing to the list -- a Great West Conference tournament championship.


The No. 1-seeded Sioux take on the winner of the South Dakota-Texas-Pan American match today at 5:30 p.m.

Early contributions

Hanson's contributions came early.

When she came to UND as a freshman in 2006, she led the team in total blocks with 112 and block assists (91). The 91 block assists was the ninth-highest single-season total in UND history.

"Sometimes freshmen aren't prepared to handle the college volleyball game," UND coach Ashley Hardee said. "So for her to be mature enough to come into the program as a freshman and contribute at a high level says a lot about her character."

And she kept up the high level of competition throughout her college career. Hanson's accomplishments include:

n Leading the team in attacks, points per game and kills per game her sophomore year. That season, she finished second on the team in kills and points and third on the team in total blocks. She was also named to the North Central Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll.

- In her junior year, leading the team in kills, attack percentage, total attacks, solo blocks, block assists and total blocks while moving into ninth place on the UND career block charts.


- And this season, when the Sioux took on a more grueling Division I schedule -- only one of 26 games was against a non-D-I opponent -- Hanson was a key part in helping the Sioux to a 20-6 overall record (11-1 Great West).

For example, against Arizona State of the Pac 10 -- one of the best volleyball conferences in the country -- she had seven kills and four block assists.

"I think she could play for anyone in the country, I really do," Hardee said. "I've coached some All-American middles at New Mexico State and her strength and ability to score is equal to that of theirs."

This season, she's had the second-best blocking season in UND history, tallying 133 blocks. She also leads the conference in blocks per set, total blocks and block assists and has the top attack percentage in the league with a .313.

Her average of 1.49 blocks per set puts her in a tie for ninth among all Division I players in that category.

Hanson's name is cemented in the UND record books. But aside from all of her accomplishments, Hardee said there's one thing that sets her apart from other players.

"She's a leader by example," Hardee said. "By how hard she plays all the time, the way she prepares and treats every opponent equally and with respect. The approach to the game of volleyball for her is what you want from all your players, that they take it that seriously, give 100 percent and leave everything out on the court. Those things are what sets her apart from some other players that may have equal talent, but that's where they fall short."

In mid-September, Hanson was named the Great West offensive player of the week and on Thursday she received all-conference honors when she was named to the Great West Conference first team.


Perfect ending?

Hanson's career culminates this weekend when the Sioux play at the conference tournament in Houston.

UND, which won the Great West regular season title, has a quarterfinal bye.

The Sioux are on a 10-match win streak and rank first in the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.120) and blocks (2.56 per set) and second in digs (16.01 per set) and opponent kills (11.16 per set).

Winning the tournament could be the perfect ending to Hanson's career.

"It would be the perfect ending to anybody's career," she said. "Just going out as a senior and the team has worked so hard for it all year ... all the hours we've put in and all the sweat ... it would be amazing for our team to go out with that, especially with the transition to Division I."

UND swept Texas Pan American both times the teams met this season and swept South Dakota once in Vermillion. But when the Coyotes came to play in Grand Forks in UND's regular-season ender, South Dakota pushed it to five sets.

UND also had four-set and five-set matches against No. 2-seed Utah Valley, a potential championship opponent if the Sioux get through the semifinals. Utah Valley was the only conference team to beat the Sioux this season.

"We're ready to give everything we have to this tournament," Hanson said. "Transitioning to Division I, obviously there wasn't much expected of us in the beginning. Our team has come around and risen to the challenge."

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