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The Dandy Dozen: The Wolf Pack's top athletes of 2018-19

Nicola Ader
Nicola Ader was a four-time All-American this year. (Kevin Bass/Nevada athletics)

The Wolf Pack saw its share of highlights during the 2018-19 athletic season, both from an individual and team perspective. Today, we look at the top Nevada athletes from the season the just concluded season. Here is our look at the Wolf Pack's Dandy Dozen, the 12 best Nevada performers in 2018-19.

12. Hiley Dobbs

Dobbs excelled in the fall and the spring for the Wolf Pack. During the cross country season, she earned all-region honors after finishing a program-best 21st in the NCAA Mountain Regional. It was the first time a Nevada athlete was named cross country all-region since EmKay Myers in 2015. Dobbs continued her success during the outdoor track and field season, finishing fourth in the 10,000 meters at the Mountain West Championship with a school-record time that qualified her for NCAA West Preliminaries where she placed 45th. Dobbs will be senior in cross country next season, with a goal of getting the program to its first NCAA Championship.

11. Toa Taua

Nevada football had never had a MW freshman of the year until this season when Taua won the starting running back job as a true freshman and ran his way to this award. The younger brother of Nevada legend, Vai Taua, Toa proved equally elusive for defenders to bring down. In a crowded backfield, Taua rushed for 872 and six touchdowns and added 22 receptions for 202 yards and another score. His best game came at Toledo where Taua rushed 15 times for 170 yards and three touchdowns. Taua then got some good news in the offseason when his brother was promoted to Nevada’s running backs coach, meaning they’ll work hand in hand during the 2019 season.

10. Sadaria McAlister

The McQueen High graduate led Nevada softball with a .361 average and 11 stolen bases (the rest of the team combined for nine steals). She posted a .399 on-base mark and slugged .539. Her 69 hits paced Nevada with 21 going for extra bases (six homers, 14 doubles, one triple). She scored 42 runs and drove in another 30 and had three assists from the outfield. McAlister was even better in conference play (.382 average, 1.052 OPS) and was named first-team All-MW while leading Nevada to the National Invitational Softball Championship for the third straight season where the Wolf Pack reached the title game, falling to Loyola Marymount.

9. Rebecca Murray

You can’t have a good list without a Murray, and this Murray more than earned her spot. The native of Falkirk, Scotland captained the swimming and diving team to a second-place finish at the MW Championship. She won the MW’s 100-yard freestyle for the second straight season, setting a school record in the process, and swam anchor for the 800 free relay team that won gold. She also earned two silver medals (200 free relay, 400 free relay) and a bronze (400 medley relay) while winning a team-high seven All-MW honors this season (three as an individual and four on relays). Murray was the 10th-ranked individual of the MW championship capturing 80 points.

8. Grant Ford

Ford had two nondescript campaigns in his first two years at Nevada, posting ERAs of 7.53 and 8.42 during his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. Everything locked into place during his junior season as Ford shifted to being a full-time reliever and went 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA and five saves over 45.2 innings. He struck out 51 batters and showed vastly improved control of his electric stuff. That stuff, combined with his production, was good enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates to spend a fifth-round pick on Ford, who was the 154th overall selection, which was slotted for a $343,400 signing bonus. While others on this list are ranked higher, Ford had the most financially lucrative season of a Pack athlete.

7. Jordan Caroline

Caroline wrapped up his historic career at Nevada with a strong senior season, earning All-MW first-team honors for the second straight year. Despite spending only three years in Reno, Caroline finished fifth in school history in scoring and fifth in rebounds. He set MW career records in double-doubles and rebounds. A late-season injury sapped some of Caroline’s production, but he cemented himself as one of the best players in Nevada basketball history, which included a senior season in which he averaged 17 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on an NCAA Tournament team (Caroline was the only active scholarship player on all three of Eric Musselman’s tournament teams).

6. Joey Vrzich

Vrzich got off to a blazing start for the golf team, winning two individual events and having two runner-up finishes in his first four events of the season. He helped Nevada win three teams titles, a single-season school record, and powered the Wolf Pack to its second straight NCAA Regional where it fell just shy of making nationals. Vrzich was a two-time MW golfer of the month and was named to the all-conference team while earning a spot on the Haskins Award watch list given to the nation’s top male college golfer. His scoring average of 71.76 was the seventh best in school history. The big question now is whether he will return for his junior season as he’s put his name in the NCAA transfer portal.

5. Laura Isabel Vazquez Lopez

You can pretty much guarantee there’s going to be at least one diver on this list each year. That’s how good of a coach Jian Li You is. She found and developed another gem in Lopez, who joined the Wolf Pack at the semester break and had a huge impact in helping Nevada finish second in the MW Championship. Lopez won gold in the 3-meter dive, silver in the 1 meter and earned a bronze in the platform, winning medalist honors in all three diving events at the conference championship. She then advanced to the NCAA Championship where she placed 24th in the 3-meter. Not bad for a freshman.

4. Malik Reed

MW quarterbacks must be pleased Reed is off to the NFL. The three-year starter for the Wolf Pack capped his college career with another big season, racking up 77 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks and was named first-team All-MW for the second straight season. Reed also was named the team’s co-Golden Helmet Award winner along with QB Ty Gangi, which is awarded to the team’s MVP. Reed finished his Nevada career fifth in sacks (22) and fifth in tackles for loss (38.5). His 11 forced fumbles were first among active FBS players. While Reed went undrafted, he signed a free-agent deal with the Denver Broncos and has a solid chance of making the team’s 53-man active roster.

3. The Martins

It’s not really fair to the Martins that I stick them together, but I did so last season and I’ll do so again this year. The twin brothers from North Carolina led Nevada to a historic season, even if the Wolf Pack fell a little short of their lofty preseason goals. Caleb Martin, the school’s first preseason All-American, averaged 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, while Cody Martin added 12.1 points, 4.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game as Nevada spent the entire season in the Top 25, peaking at No. 5 in the nation after a 24-1 start. The Wolf Pack tied a school record with 29 wins, won its third straight MW regular-season title and reached the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.

2. Mitchell Van Patten

Nevada announced this season it was discontinuing rifle, but that didn’t keep Van Patten from having a stellar senior season. The Idaho native earned three All-American honors, two from the National Rifle Association and one from the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association. He was named a first-team All-American by the NRA in smallbore and air rifle – Nevada's only first-team All-American this year – and was named to the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association combined guns first team. He advanced to his first NCAA Championship, placing 14th in the smallbore. He shot a 596 in air rifle versus Alaska, four points shy of a perfect 600 and one shy of the school record.

1. Nicola Ader

Ader had a breakout sophomore season, winning second-team All-American honors in four events (one in the indoor season and three in the outdoor season). She was the first Wolf Pack athlete to compete in three events in one NCAA Championship, placing 12th in the long jump, 13th in the heptathlon, 16th in the high jump at the outdoor meet. That was in addition to her ninth-place finish at the indoor high jump. She set two school records during the year as well as a second-, third- and fourth-best marks in school history in other events. Her four All-American honors are the most for a Nevada track and field athlete in their career (the previous high was two by Ali McKnight), so it was a historic season for the German.

A dozen more considered: Jaylon McLaughlin, baseball; Lindsey Sickler, cross country/track and field; Korey Rush, football; Ty Gangi, football; Stephen Osborne, men’s golf; Julien Evrard, men’s tennis; Jade Redmon, women’s basketball; Victoria Gailey, women’s golf; Kali Sargent, softball; Andressa Cholodovskis, swimming; Kayla Afoa, volleyball; Karoline Sauer, women’s track and field.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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