Lynnwood senior middle blocker Hannah Johnson is The Herald’s Volleyball Player of the Year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lynnwood senior middle blocker Hannah Johnson is The Herald’s Volleyball Player of the Year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Herald’s 2023 Volleyball Player of the Year: Hannah Johnson

The Lynnwood senior’s on-court production and determined leadership help key a historic season for the Royals.

LYNNWOOD — Hannah Johnson has been an essential piece to the Lynnwood volleyball program’s rise as a powerhouse.

The dynamic middle blocker headlined a dominant Royals crew in the fall and was the glue that held everything together.

Whenever Lynnwood needed somebody to rally behind during a historic 23-1 season, which included a Wesco 3A/2A title, a first-ever Class 3A District 1 tournament championship and a third-place finish at the state tournament, Johnson was much obliged to do so.

“We always say that we have a lot of alphas on our team, but she’s like the alpha-alpha,” head coach Annalise Mudaliar said. “She’s somebody who’s voice is respected and her reactions are respected. She’s somebody that people look to. She calms people down, she brings people together, she keeps them steady. … You can always count on her to bring her A-game.”

Johnson, 5-foot-11 senior, chalked up 2.95 kills, 1.25 blocks and 0.55 aces per set with a .398 hitting percentage, totaling 201 kills and 81 blocks.

Her role on the floor can be described as multi-purposeful. Whether it was rallying the rest of the group in a team huddle, being an offensive hub or sacrificing her body to dive for a loose balls, she was in the right place at the right time.

For her productive season and overall impact during the Royals’ state semifinal run, Johnson is The Herald’s 2023 All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.

Johnson set high goals for herself when the season began. By the end of the year, the four-year varsity starter garnered her second consecutive first team all-league nod and was named second team all-state by the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association.

“I feel really proud of myself and my team as well,” Johnson said. “This season has been the best time of my life. It’s been so fun to play with my friends and my sister (Harmony Johnson). … I couldn’t have asked for anything better besides winning state, but this is close enough.”

Johnson helped push Lynnwood to an undefeated record through the state quarterfinals, which included a 10-game streak of three-set sweeps to begin the season.

The Royals dropped just three sets throughout the regular season and districts, only to face back-to-back five-set matches at the Yakima Valley SunDome on the first day of state competition.

“Talk about a baller,” Mudaliar said. “Hannah and the team, they kinda coincide together because they all rally each other. They don’t have an off button, especially Hannah. Middle (blocker) is an exhausting position to play and she just finds a way to tap in, even in a day where you’re playing 10 sets of aggressive volleyball.”

The senior was instrumental during Lynnwood’s fight to stay alive at state. The second-seeded Royals pulled out a first-round win over Central Kitsap and took down a scrappy Mt. Spokane team in the quarterfinals in a match that wasn’t over until past midnight.

“Playing in the midnight game to take us into the final four was a top-five moment for me being on the Lynnwood team,” Johnson said. “It was just magical. … We wanted it so bad.”

Lynnwood’s Hannah Johnson high-fives teammates before a match against Jackson on Sept. 14 at Lynnwood High School in Bothell. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lynnwood’s Hannah Johnson high-fives teammates before a match against Jackson on Sept. 14 at Lynnwood High School in Bothell. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The Royals ran into a juggernaut in the semis against Mead and fell 3-1, but even in Lynnwood’s only loss of the season in a high-pressure setting, Johnson kept her poise as the Royals turned around to sweep No. 1 seed North Thurston in the third-place tilt.

Lynnwood had just about 30 minutes to re-coup after falling to the Panthers, and in between those last two matches, Johnson could be seen hustling down to the stadium concession stand for a chance to re-fuel in time for her final showing in a Royals jersey.

“She came in wanting to leave her imprint on the program and leave behind a legacy that mattered,” Mudaliar said. “You’re talking about a kid who comes to our camps, and she’s the kid that everybody wants to be.

“Part of it is her personality, she hates to lose and really takes what she does seriously. She wants to do a good job, she wants to play for her team and for her family and community. All of that matters to her.”

Johnson has aspirations of a long college volleyball career and has drawn interest from multiple schools as she weighs her decision.

“To be honest, I don’t think I could go to college without playing a sport,” Johnson quipped. “I’ve always played a sport, so going to school without playing volleyball would be kinda depressing. I’m really blessed to be able to go (play in college). I just want to be able to play, have fun and keep playing like this because I love it.”

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