Aliya Edwards signing

Rawlins High School graduate Aliya Edwards, left, signed her letter of intent to play volleyball at Western Wyoming Community College. She was joined by her mom, Erin Edwards, right, and a host of friends in the RHS commons on Monday afternoon.

RAWLINS — Aliya Edwards, who graduated from Rawlins High School earlier this spring, thought her athletic career was over after her final soccer game in May. Edwards was a standout, three-sport athlete at RHS but was content with her initial decision to step away from athletics and focus on academics. In fact, the former Outlaw had been accepted at the University of Wyoming and was set to start classes in Laramie in the fall.

Edwards had one last athletic event on her docket as a high school athlete when she played in an all-star soccer game after the close of the spring sports season. After the game, a soccer coach from Northwest College approached her about the possibility of playing soccer at the junior college in Powell. The conversation reignited a fire in Edwards that she thought was gone.

She knew that soccer wouldn’t be the sport for her. She had played volleyball competitively since elementary school and knew that, if she was going to change her mind about playing a sport in college, it would be to pursue volleyball at the next level. That in mind, she set her sights on Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs and has made official her intent to be a Mustang starting with the fall 2021 semester.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” she said about her decision. “I’m excited that I made the right decision, even if it was pretty late. I wanted to go to UW and just take a break from sports. When I went to my all-star soccer game, the coach from Northwest who talked to me about soccer helped me realize I’m not ready to be done with sports. It’s just volleyball for me, though. It’s my No. 1 sport. I got in touch with the coach at Western and she gave me a chance.”

Head coach Fredann Soto gave Edwards more than a chance, she also awarded the Outlaw alum a scholarship. The scholarship is a nice perk for Edwards, who was instantly impressed with Soto and thrilled to be given the opportunity to continue playing the sport she loves.

“I really, really like her,” Edwards said of her new head coach. “The vibe that I got from her was that she is so much about family. I felt so comfortable with her and I knew I could talk to her on a ‘not volleyball’ level. Getting to know her helped me feel really comfortable with making my decision quickly.”

Family also factored into Edwards’ decision to play at the next level for the Mustangs. Western, which is located in Rock Springs, is close enough for Edwards’ family to be able to watch her play. She might not have family in the stands as often as she did as an Outlaw, but often enough to help her feel better about leaving in the fall.

“I’m most nervous about leaving my family and friends,” Edwards admitted. “I’m just really scared I won’t have time to see them. But now that I know I’m playing a sport I think I’ll get to see them a lot. I’m honestly not nervous about playing or school, just about missing my family.”

Edwards might feel a bit homesick at first, but she should feel right at home on the volleyball court. She’s been playing volleyball since 3rd grade and was an integral part of the Outlaws’ 2019 state championship run. She has an incredible vertical and could make an immediate impact for the Mustangs as a defensive specialist.

Edward’s high school head coach, Aubrey Griffiths, has every confidence that she has the skill set to make the starting lineup.

“There was hardly a ball in the back row that came down without Ali hitting the floor,” she said. “If I could have had her as libero, I would have, but I needed her in the front row, too. She’s great in the front but shines in the back row.”

Her athleticism is undeniable, but you could consider Edwards the “total package” in terms of a good college prospect. Griffiths doesn’t expect grades to be a problem and she is confident her former player will bring something special to her new team.

“Her attitude is just everything. She makes everything lighthearted and fun. Even if it’s the worst practice, she finds something funny to say and makes everyone laugh. I’m definitely going to miss that on the court.”

While Edwards will be sorely missed on the RHS roster, she helped build on an already strong culture of excellent volleyball in Rawlins. She will look to make the same impact at Western Wyoming where she is hoping to make the starting lineup immediately while she studies criminal psychology.

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