Lobo Volleyball Adds Three to 2021 Class
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The University of New Mexico volleyball team has signed three in the early signing period.
Entering their second year, Jon Newman-Gonchar and staff have recruited the state of Texas and California to sign Elizabeth Woods, a middle blocker from Rowlett, Texas, Abby Thigpen, an outside hitter from Arlington, Texas, and Riley White, a setter from Long Beach, Calif.
“We cannot wait to welcome our next group of Lobos to The Land of Enchantment,” Newman-Gonchar stated. “This is a class we are very proud of, and we know will have a very bright future in our Lobo volleyball program. We had a very specific goal in mind with this 2021 class and we nailed it. We wanted to get athletes that were great people and dynamic athletes, and this class represents exactly that!”
While at Sachse High School in Texas, Woods excelled as a two-sport athlete as well as in the classroom, earning academic and team honors in both volleyball and basketball.
She was named Freshman of the Year in 2017, first team all-district in volleyball and basketball in 2019 and academic all-district the last three years. During her high school career, Woods was recognized for her academic excellence by the Garland I.S.D. and was a member of the National Honor Society.
“At 6-2, Elizabeth is a middle blocker who brings great physical tools and a work ethic that brings out the best in everyone around her,” said Newman-Gonchar.
Other notable achievements for Woods include being the NAACP award winner in 2017 and was in the top-100 in Texas for basketball.
On the volleyball court, Woods’ team reached the regional quarterfinals last season and her club team, the Skyline 16 Royal, placed third at the 2019 USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships.
Intending to major in accounting, Woods stated, “I chose UNM because of the diversity of the student body and the I love the culture of the volleyball program and the coaching staff.”
An outside hitter, Thigpen played four years on the varsity team at Martin High School, earning Newcomer of the Year as a freshman and second team all-district as a junior. During her high school career, the Warriors won the district all four years and reached the semi-regional in 2017.
“Abby was our first commitment in this class,” recalled Newman-Gonchar. “She is an explosive attacker with a great arm.”
As a freshman, Thigpen recorded 123 kills, 32 service aces, 53 digs and 81 total blocks (71 assisted) and improved her kill and dig total as a junior with 274 kills and 108 digs.
In addition, the 5-10 outside hitter ranked as the 61st-best volleyball player in the state of Texas according to Prep Dig rankings.
At the club level, Thigpen played for Texas Image Volleyball and NRG Volleyball, with her club team qualifying for nationals from 2016-2020 and being recognized as the 2016 Far West Qualifier Open champions.
Academically, Thigpen was awarded academic all-district all four years and earned the Rotary Award.
Intending to major in psychology, the incoming Lobo chose UNM because, “I fell in love at first sight with the campus. Then I walked into the gym and knew this would be my home because of the family atmosphere on the team. Plus, the food was awesome.”
At Wilson High School, White made varsity her freshman year, earning Most Improved Player, and during her junior year, her team made it to the third round of the CIF Tournament. Academically, White was a member of the honor roll all four years.
“Riley is a setter we had on our radar for a long time,” the UNM head coach said. “She is a setter that plays with great poise, and can run a very fast offense.”
Throughout her volleyball career, White played club volleyball for the Long Beach Volleyball Club, Club H, Mizuno Long Beach, Surfside, and the Seal Beach Volleyball Club. Her sophomore year, her club team came in third at the Las Vegas Classic and earned silver in the national division at the Junior Olympics.
“I chose UNM because I love the atmosphere that the coaches have worked hard to create and I was excited to be a part of a growing team,” White stated. “I also love the campus and knew I would be getting a great education.”
Standing 5-8, White will join the Lobos in January and will major in psychology.
The new Lobos add great depth to an experienced roster that Newman-Gonchar and company have assembled in their two years at UNM.