SPORTS Jojola pass.jpg

Natalie Jojola, seen here passing to Feleena Gabaldon during the state championship game, started every game she played for the Tigers during her junior season. She will play at Western Colorado University following her graduation from Los Lunas High School. 

Another Los Lunas girls basketball player will continue her career at the next level.

Rising senior Natalie “Doodle” Jojola has committed to play for Western Colorado University in Gunnison, Colo., following the conclusion of her time at Los Lunas High School.

The Mountaineers are a Division II program that competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and are coming off a 20-7 season that saw the program qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its history.

“They’ve been in touch with me for a while,” Jojola said. “When I first got to talk to the coaches, it felt like I already knew them; it felt like a family. When I took my visit, I immediately clicked with all the girls and felt at home.”

With the program on the rise since current head coach Lora Westling took over five years ago, Jojola was drawn to the program, and feels she can help take them to the next level.

“I want to help build this up; I want to be able to look back after I’ve graduated and say that I helped build the program,” she said. “I want to win a national championship and I feel like I can do that at Western.”’

Jojola was primarily recruited by assistant coach Todd Stutzman, who discovered her at an AAU tournament that took place at Metro State University in Denver, Colo.

“It was his first year, and one of the first events that he came to, I was the first recruit he discovered,” Jojola said. “He came up to me after a game and we exchanged information and he kept in touch with me from there. We both think its really cool that I was the first player he found after he started at Western.”

While it’s still relatively early in the recruiting cycle for class of 2021 players, Jojola wanted to be able to focus on her senior season without having to worry about where she would be playing in college. Committing to a school early was always in the plan.

She picked the Mountaineers over fellow RMAC programs Fort Lewis College and Metro State, as well as Newman University and Division I program Vermont.

“It was really cool to have a D1 program interested in me,” Jojola said. “But it’s so far away and I wanted to stay close to home so I set that one to the side. Western set itself apart from the rest.”

Westling and her staff envision Jojola as someone who can be a really good point guard for the program, as well as play shooting guard, she said.

The coaches envision Jojola teaming up with reigning RMAC freshman of the year Hannah Cooper to give the Mountaineers a lethal back-court combo.

Jojola expects that she’ll be playing early and often once she gets on campus next fall, and said when she asked about how much playing time to expect, the coaches laughed and said, “Well, it would sure raise a lot of eyebrows if we gave you a full scholarship just to sit on the bench.”

Jojola hasn’t reached a final decision on what she wants to major in when she reaches college but said she’s deciding between sports science and physical therapy.

“I want to thank Coach Zeller, all of my coaches, friends and family who have helped me get here,” Jojola said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Sports writer

Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.

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