Shime county volleyballer of yearNov 19, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor
Naya Shime of Riverton has been named Fremont County's volleyball player of the year by the sports staff of The Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News.
One person who needed no convincing was Rawlins senior setter McKayla Earl, who suffered a concussion and broken nose after being blasted by a Shime screamer in the Class 3-A state semifinals in Casper.
It was a perfect -- albeit bloody and painful example of the power the 5-foot-11 outside hitter has brought to the Lady Wolverines front line over the past two seasons.
However, after bursting onto the scene last year, Shime upped her game even more in her sophomore campaign, crushing an incredible 622 kills -- good for a .277 hitting percentage -- as well as adding a squad-leading 433 digs and 27 blocks.
According to Riverton head coach Trista Day, as good as Shime was last season, she flew light years ahead this year.
"Naya has become very consistent with her swing on the outside," said Day. "She led the state in kills this year -- what a huge accomplishment out of a sophomore. Naya will get better without a doubt. She's growing and learning new things about the game each year."
Shime seemed to save her best performances for when it mattered most.
For example, she hammered 33 kills in a victory against Mountain View, followed by another 23 in a win over Lyman during the Class 3-A West regional tournament, which helped propel the Lady Wolverines to the crown, defeating Star Valley in the championship match, which secured a West No. 1 seed at the state tournament, where they finished fourth.
One aspect which made her a true, all-around threat to opposing defenses was her digging ability, allowing her to contribute to the cause even while not dominating the net, said Day.
"One big accomplishment for her was to be able to play back row," she said. "Last year, she didn't do that and this year she proved to be one of our best passers and defenders. It's not often you can find a player who can do it all."
Another way Shime made the Lady Wolverines a stronger squad was simply leading by example, said Day.
"Naya didn't realize it, but she was one of our leaders on the court," she said. "I always said, 'where Naya goes, we will go.' Her leadership comes through her actions on the court. Hopefully, next year her verbal leadership will fall into play."
Once a player's physical game has truly begun to blossom, the emotional and psychological aspects are free to follow, which is definitely the case with Shime, said Day.
"Mentally and verbally is where Naya will develop next year," she said. "She'll be an upperclassmen, and she'll have to take on a bigger role. I also want her more active on where she gets her kills from on the net in running different routes."
However, perhaps Shime's biggest contribution to the Lady Wolverines' culture of winning is her overall approach to not only volleyball, but life in general, said Day.
"Naya's smile and outlook on life is amazing -- that girl can light up a room with her smile, which in return can light up a court," she said. "
Her enthusiasm for volleyball rubs off on all the girls. She truly loves the game and has broken that barrier of knowing and feeling what hard work looks like and feels like and challenges her teammates. Naya is phenomenal, and I can't wait to watch her grow."