As much as any sport at the University of New Mexico, the DNA of the women’s soccer program is infused with homegrown talent.
The Lobos are going to add to their local haul Wednesday. No fewer than four Albuquerque players are planning to sign letters of intent on the first day of a week-long national signing period.
“I’m excited to play for them because they create such an inclusive dynamic with their team,” said forward Mercedes Morris, who last week won a Class 5A state championship with Cibola. “I really love their coaching style and how they approach their game, and I want to be coached by them really bad.”
Her Cougars teammate, midfielder Corrine Whitsell, also is going to sign with the Lobos, Mountain West champions who have qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
Defender/midfielder Kennedy Brown of Volcano Vista and forward Taylor Rittman of Eldorado are UNM-bound, as well.
“They’re really doing well, and I think just to come in a program at a top-notch level like that is exciting,” Morris said.
Morris, Brown and Whitesell are all part of the same club team and have been club teammates since they were in middle school.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to stay here,” said Brown. “That was my goal since Day One.”
Rittman plays for a different club team than the other three, but her passion for the Lobos is the same.
“It’s such a privilege to be able to represent your home state. I’m extremely grateful that UNM is such an amazing school with such amazing coaches and players,” Rittman said. “Picking from the New Mexico talent really just highlights what we have here.”
Socorro High senior soccer forward Elise Madril, who on Wednesday is going to sign with the New Mexico State women, is believed to be the first field player from the Warriors’ traditionally strong program to earn a Division I scholarship.
“It’s just super exciting, knowing all the hard work that I’ve put in since I was 14,” Madril said. She travels to Albuquerque several times a week just to practice with her club team. “Always having a goal, and finally being able to reach it, is something I’ve always wanted for myself.”
UNM baseball and new coach Tod Brown are signing a handful of local talents, including shortstop Akili Carris and pitcher Matthew Dinae from La Cueva, pitcher/infielder Jordan Martinez and RHP/IF Adrien Martin from Sandia.
“(Coach Ray) Birmingham was a really great coach over the years, and I like the new coach, Tod Brown, and how he’s running things now,” said Martinez, adding that UNM continued to recruit him through the coaching transition, through assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Jon Coyne.
“A lot of local guys have been committing, a lot of good local guys, and Jon Coyne is one of the best recruiters in the NCAA,” Martinez said. “He gets the best guys he can possibly get.”
Big Cibola right-handed pitcher Tommy White (6-4, 200) is following in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather, who both attended the University of Illinois. White is signing with the Fighting Illini.
“It just all kind of came together,” White said. “They were a dream school of mine, and all of a sudden their pitching coach reached out to me.”
Joining the Big Ten was enticing enough, but there was more to the picture.
“They want to see me get better and see me get to the next level after college, which is my ultimate goal,” White said.
The Albuquerque Baseball Academy is hosting a signing ceremony Wednesday. It will include Henry Mitchell, a pitcher from Albuquerque Academy going to the Naval Academy; Nolan Perry of Carlsbad, who is signing with Texas Tech; and Academy’s Alex Gaeto, who is signing with Samford in Alabama. Carris, Dinae, Martin, Martinez and White all are expected to participate in the signing.
The UNM women’s basketball program officially gets its two highly touted Volcano Vista recruits, guards Jaelyn Bates and Natalia Chavez. They are going to do a signing ceremony Wednesday along with Brown, who is a basketball teammate of theirs with the Hawks.
In addition to Rittman, Eldorado has two other athletes signing D-I letters in middle blocker/hitter Sydney Moore from the volleyball team (UNM) and Gabe Ball (track and field; Cornell). Ball is not the only Albuquerque athlete running to the Ivy League. So is Albuquerque Academy’s Joaquin Deprez, going to Dartmouth for both cross country and track.
Swimmer Jamin Harlin, a double state champion at Cibola last winter, is signing with West Virginia. La Cueva’s veteran volleyball setter, Erin Jones, is signing with St. John’s in New York City.
NOTES: Former Sandia pitcher Aiden May, most recently of Pima Community College in Tucson, is expected to sign with the University of Arizona. He did not pitch last season. … Former La Cueva High baseball player Davis Pratt, who is at Temple College in Temple, Texas, said he would be moving on to Purdue.