Has there been a more momentous decade for UNO athletics than the 2010’s?
Of course, depending on your point of the views, the 2010’s could be described by a host of different adjectives.
Some could say it was a heartbreaking decade, as programs such as football and wrestling hung up their cleats and singlets for the last time.
Others might say it was a tumultuous decade, as the university went on the long and difficult journey of transitioning from Division II to Division I.
Still some might say it was an illustrious decade, as men’s soccer and baseball brought home the first conference championships of the school’s DI era.
Whatever you prefer, it was no doubt a momentous decade. The moments this school and its teams experienced seem unparalleled in the course of its history.
The defining moment of the decade came very early on. In March of 2011, it was announced that UNO athletics would be moving to the bigger stage that they always belonged on.
While the years in DII had been good to the Mavericks and led to a number of National Championships in softball, women’s soccer, volleyball and of course, wrestling, it was always going to be natural for these Mavericks to want to move to greener pastures.
In order to compete in these greener pastures, UNO needed bigger and better facilities that could help match their ambition. So that’s what they got.
Al F. Caniglia Field, once a shrine to college football, received a face-lift and became home to a different type of football. To football purists, seeing soccer nets where field goals once stood might have been blasphemous, but for a campus that was becoming increasingly more global and diverse, adding a sport that was familiar to many across the world was a fitting move.
As for the basketball, volleyball and hockey teams, it seemed the right time for them to get a brand new place to call home. So, on Oct. 23, 2015, the doors to the shiny new Baxter Arena opened for the first time. No longer would hockey fans have to drive to downtown Omaha to cheer on their team. And while the Sapp Fieldhouse was a historic building for basketball and volleyball fans, the teams that played there had outgrown its cozy confines. So finally, with Baxter Arena, Omaha athletics had a facility to call their own that would be fitting to serve as a cornerstone for a growing UNO athletics department.
The decade also saw countless UNO athletes who dazzled Maverick fans with their impressive athletic feats and inspirational stories. Many of these accomplished athletes were featured in a recent article from the Omaha World-Herald, who took a quick break from their Husker football coverage to give these Mavericks a deserved shout-out. The article is excellent and recommended reading for Maverick fans, but it’s worth mentioning a few of the standout athletes who didn’t make that list.
Men’s soccer player Mark Moulton never got a chance to lead his team to a Summit League title, but as one of the players who joined the team in its infancy, Moulton was hugely influential in helping put the program on the map.
Track star Stephanie Ahrens did things at this university that no one has done before. In 2018, Ahrens set the school record in the high jump, along with becoming the school’s first track and field All-American.
It’s hard to mention Omaha basketball without talking about Zach Jackson. During his time at UNO as a freshman in 2015 to his last game in 2019, Jackson helped lead his team to two Summit League title games, and along the way, scored 1,570 points, more than any other Maverick has scored in the DI era.
With the 2010’s now at a close, it’s hard to be a Maverick fan and not be optimistic about the future. The possibilities of what UNO teams can achieve in the next decade seem endless. Perhaps an increasing number of players will be taken in professional sports drafts. Maybe there are a number of conference championships and NCAA tournament bids in store.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: the highest heights that this school and its teams can achieve have not yet been realized. Buckle up Maverick fans, because as great as the 2010’s were, the 20’s are going to be even better.