FARMINGTON — Jazmin Benally was asked to do a lot during her senior year with the Navajo Prep basketball and volleyball teams, and the workload won’t get any easier after she signed a letter of intent to play both sports at Iowa Lakes Community College Wednesday afternoon at Navajo Prep.
“A lot of people asked me if I have a favorite, but I don’t really like one sport over the other. I decided I wanted to play both, and I don’t think anyone else would have given me the opportunity to play both,” Benally said. “Both coaches were willing to work with me so I could play both sports.”
ILCC is a member of the National Junior College Athletics Association and competes in the Iowa Community College Athletics Conference. Last season, the volleyball team went 31-12 while the women’s basketball program finished 16-14. The campus is located in Estherville, Iowa.
During her senior year with Prep’s volleyball team, Benally was asked to fill the void left after three-year starting setter Keona Leano graduated. Benally proved to be more than efficient and earned second team All-State honors following the season.
Then, during the basketball season, head coach Rainy Crisp, who also leads the school’s volleyball program, leaned heavily on Benally for leadership and production after fellow senior Jasmine Coleman went down with a knee injury early in the year, and missed the remainder of the season.
Crisp said over the past year, Benally broke out of her shell as the quiet leader of both teams and took on more of a vocal role for the two programs.
“This year, she really stepped up as a vocal leader, and with Keona graduating and Jasmine getting hurt, it was exactly what we needed from her,” Crisp said. “We only had two seniors the younger girls could look up to, and she really stepped up this last year.”
ILCC head volleyball coach Lea Hartigan told Benally that she will be the only setter on the team’s roster this season.
On the basketball court, Benally said head coach Ashley Martin is in need of guards, and there’s a chance she’ll see significant minutes right away.
The coaches knew Benally was really interested in the program and drew their excitement when she made her official visit to the campus last week.
“They were both excited to meet me because I came from so far away,” Benally said. “They’re used to only Iowa players, so for me to come from here, they were really excited.”
During her time at Prep, Benally was a part of multiple state tournament teams, reaching the 3A state title match for volleyball in 2014. She said the experience of playing on high-caliber teams and against some of the best teams in the state will prove to be an asset when she joins the ILCC programs.
“I think the state tournaments that I’ve been in, you always have to work hard to get there,” Benally said. “I think it really prepared me for when I get out to Iowa because it showed me the different levels that other teams play at.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.