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‘It feels like a dream’: Shonto volleyball player signs on to play volleyball in Maine


Shonto native Cheyenne Cly graduated from Monument Valley High in Kayenta earlier this year. She recently signed on to play volleyball for Central Maine Community College.

Shonto native Cheyenne Cly recently signed to play for the Central Maine Community College women’s volleyball team. She’s the third member of the Shonto Starlings traveling team to sign this year.

“It feels like a dream, it’s so exciting,” Cly said. “I plan to do the best that I can, I have that mindset where I know I will do it.”

Cly was born in Shonto, but when she was a child her family moved down to the Valley where her parents got new jobs. They returned home not long after she started elementary school and remained in Shonto thereafter.

Cly’s volleyball career began when her elder sisters asked their mother, whose name is also Cheyenne Bennet Cly, to let them play on the local volleyball club – the Shonto Starlings coached by Harrison Miles, to which she agreed.

The younger Cly would watch her sisters play for a while before she decided to play with the Starlings when she was in the sixth grade.

Ever since then Cly would go back and forth playing for the Starlings as well as with the school volleyball teams.

She played basketball during middle school, but ultimately chose to stay with volleyball during high school because the game helped her focus and learn to be dedicated as well as be responsible, especially when doing her schoolwork.

“Cheyenne used all the discipline she got from practice, from what Coach Miles said, like eat healthy and exercise,” Cheyenne’s mother said. “It did play a big part in her life as well as ours.”

Cheyenne played as the Starling’s libero, making her the specialist for defense tactics and an essential player for the team during the games.

“She has developed her ability to pass with good angles and has a good platform in volleyball,” Miles said. “Her hand-eye coordination is beyond that of most players. She can pass without being noticed, see a player pass without big movement and got the skills down so she doesn’t have to put much effort into her own movement.”

When she isn’t playing volleyball with her friends, Cheyenne spends a lot of time with her family, including riding horses and helping her grandparents at their ranch and taking care of their animals.

Her normal routine was changed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It took her a while to adapt to doing online schoolwork, to divide personal time with school time but she eventually got the hang of it.

The one problem she had though was missing volleyball, especially with this being her senior year.

Volleyball resumes through COVID

She and a group of Starling players talked it over and decided to ask Miles if it was possible for them to play this year.

“Some of the girls got together,” Miles said. “The seniors wanted to have a season so they’re the ones who got the girls together and asked me if I could run the club.

Miles agreed.

Following Navajo Nation instruction while also taking precautions against the virus, the Shonto Starlings gathered during the summer 2020 and prepared for their delayed season.

To try and maintain social distance, they practiced in Shonto Canyon under the cottonwood trees. Playing in the soft sand and using a rope as an improvised net, the team adapted to the new training and hoped it gave them an edge this season.

For her last year with the Starlings, Cheyenne played in tournaments at Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego. Earning new medals from some of them.

Not long after the end of the modified season, she agreed to play for Central Maine Community College located across the country and plans to study in criminal justice.

Growing up

“It will be a great experience for me to be on my own, far from home and experience a new life out there in a new environment,” Cheyenne said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and I never really gone anywhere that far, so it should be a good experience.”

It’s a proud moment for her and her family as she will be able to get her higher education while playing the sport that she loved.

“I just like to thank the high school coaches, and especially my Starling Coach Miles and the assistant coaches in Starlings and my parents and the other parents for their support.

“And my siblings for helping my mom pay for tournaments and providing the tools I needed to play,” she added. “But I would really like to thank my mother through this whole thing – she been there forever, I wouldn’t know what to do without her. I’m just very thankful for this life given to me”

Her mother is admittedly apprehensive about her daughter going so far away, but though her faith and family she knows that her daughter will be OK.

Miles is also proud of Cheyenne, saying on average only two of his players would agree to go to college per year. He wasn’t certain if anyone would get the opportunity with the pandemic going on, but he was happy to be proven wrong.

“I told Cheyenne, enjoy the game of volleyball but make sure that you learn and get the best out of your education so that way you have two things you accomplish in volleyball and getting an education,” Miles said. “It’s pretty exciting, she’s our third girl to have signed this year.”

About The Author

David Smith

David Smith is Tódích’íi’nii and born for Dziłt’aadí. He is from Chinle and studied at Northern Arizona University. He studied journalism and English for five years while working part-time for NAU’s NAZ Today and the Lumberjack newspaper. After graduating in 2020, he joined the Navajo Times as a sportswriter for two years before leaving in September 2022. Smith returned in February 2023.


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