- Claire Mountjoy: Volleyball, Freshman Libero
Claire Mountjoy starts off this list as she comes in at No. 5. As a freshman, she arrived on campus prepared to learn the ropes and gain some experience before being vaulted into a starting role. Early in the preseason, injuries plagued the Maverick liberos, and it was decided that Mountjoy would switch positions and start at libero for Omaha. Some pressure for an 18-year-old, huh? Mountjoy took the pressure head on and rose above all expectations, as her play (4.67 digs/set) helped propel the Mavericks into the quarterfinals of the Summit League Conference tournament. The season could have been a disaster without a strong libero but Mountjoy did her part, and much more. Additionally, her youth has excited coaches and other players as Omaha now has a strong recruiting class that Coach Rose Shires hopes can push them to contend for a conference title in the near future.
- Elvir Ibisevic: Men’s Soccer, Senior Forward
You think scoring three goals in nine minutes, the second fastest hat trick in Division I history, would put you at the top of the list. Coming in at No. 4, this is no knock on Ibisevic, but rather a testament to the strength of Omaha athletics. In his sophomore campaign, he netted nine goals and an assist, which put him at the top of the team in points. Three of those nine goals were game winners, and nearly all were just spectacular finishes. He also suited for Bosnia-Herzegovina in a friendly match against the U.S. this year, getting a cap as he subbed in late in the game. He has two years left, and by that time I’m sure he will have accomplished feats that would place him at the top of much bigger lists.
- Bella Sade: Volleyball, Freshman Outside Hitter
Bella Sade is a quiet warrior. A silent killer. You don’t win Summit League Freshman of the year for nothing, and Sade’s stellar play pushed Omaha to limits they couldn’t have predicted early on. Toward the end of the year, Sade was the primary Omaha attacker. When they needed a point, it was Sade who provided the kill time and time again. She also led the team in kills and blocks and was as big of a defensive force as she was on offense. She has all the characteristics of someone who could go down as one of the best Omaha volleyball players of all time. While she’s quiet and humble, she is fierce on the court. Take a look at her after a big block or kill, and you’ll see the “war cry” scream of someone who really wants to win. She has no limits on how good she can be. Sade and fellow freshmen Anna Blaschko and Claire Mountjoy are the trio that are poised to bring a conference championship back to Omaha in their tenure.
- David Pope: Hockey, Senior Winger
When I watch David Pope play, there’s one particular comparison that comes to mind: Jake Guentzel. I know, I know, it’s way too cliché and way too early to say that. But really, he posted 41 points in 35 games, including 20 goals. He also has 12 power play goals, which ranked first in the nation. He likes to hang in the right slot and uncork one-timers that seem to either go in or nick off the post every time. Watching him play is like poetry in motion. More so, he has all the attributes to be an NHL star. He’s big, fast, physical and smart. And of course, he can really shoot the puck. Like, really shoot the puck. So why No. 2 on the list? Injuries hampered him part of his senior season, and probably cost him the NCHC player of the year, which he was nominated for. Pope may have the potential for the brightest future of all the Maverick student athletes, and I expect to see him in the NHL next year. The Red Wings are impressed with him and said he could compete for a roster spot next season.
- Xavier Gomez: Men’s Soccer, Senior Midfielder
“X gon’ give it to ya.” The phrase was started in the fall, as Xavier Gomez made a name for himself on the soccer pitch. His five goals and eight assists put him second on the team in points, but it was his heart, effort and incredible stamina that earns him the top spot on this list. No moment was ever too big for Gomez, who scored the lone goal against Denver in the Summit League Championship game. Plain and simple, Gomez was the heartbeat of the best men’s soccer team Omaha has ever had—the first to ever earn an NCAA tournament berth. The team won its first conference championship ever, (the school’s first ever) and every name on this team will be remembered for years to come as Omaha further establishes itself. If this team was the foundation for a future powerhouse, Gomez was the mold that made it go. It seemed as if all play revolved around “X” and the opportunities he could create with the ball. He was also drafted 41st overall in the MLS Draft by Minnesota United FC but has since been released. No need to fear, Gomez will get his chance in the MLS. Sometimes the unsung heroes don’t get the praise they deserve, but for the fans of Omaha soccer, they will never forget the magic Gomez created on Caniglia Field.
Honorable Mentions: Sydney O’Shaughnessy, Anna Blaschko, Abby Meader, Natalie Johnson, Zach Jackson, Andrea Brosnahan, Annika Clinton.