Santa Rosa High School Diné athlete becomes key player

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner Santa Rosa Lion Sharmaine Benally reverse volleys to the Rehoboth Lynx during the New Mexico State Volleyball Championships at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho on Nov. 11.

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Santa Rosa Lion Sharmaine Benally reverse volleys to the Rehoboth Lynx during the New Mexico State Volleyball Championships at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho on Nov. 11.

RIO RANCHO, N.M.

When Sharmaine Benally moved over 300 miles away from the reservation she knew things would not be easy.

Everything she knew was on the Navajo reservation but when she was 12 years old, her mother, Sharlene Tyler, received a job opportunity and uprooted the family and moved them to Santa Rosa.

“I grew up on the reservation in Sanostee,” Benally said. “The change was really hard, I had to make new friends and just get to know the town in general.”

To make things easier, Benally decided to join both the volleyball and basketball teams at Santa Rosa High School, not knowing it would lead her to opportunities she wasn’t expecting.

She said she joined the teams to simply fit in but got a lot more out of it.

“In volleyball, the coaches and the sports impacted my life,” she said. “It taught me about leadership, team bonding and team building.

Now a senior, Benally has been a part of two of Santa Rosa’s state volleyball appearances, including last weekend’s New Mexico High School Volleyball State Championships. The team made it to the semifinals but lost to Texico, 3-0.

During the final season of her high school volleyball career, Benally was the team’s go-to utility player.

The only senior on the team, Santa Rosa head volleyball coach Breezy Gutierrez said Benally had a pivotal role on the team.

“She’s had probably 90 percent of that role, she has been with us to the state tournament in the past two years,” she said. “She’s not very loud, but she does all kinds of things that are a motivator to the other girls.”


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Categories: Volleyball

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com.