Women’s sports on campus has a long and cherished history at Nevada, from early beginnings with basketball in 1896, to the recent success of the swim and dive team. Women’s sports at Nevada have a legacy of excellence, producing 171 All-Americans and 13 total national championship titles, ranging from individual to team wins. Below is a short history, detailing just some of their achievements.


The timeline

In 1919, Nevada’s Women’s Athletics Association was accepted to the National Women’s Athletic Association. The move opened the door for intercollegiate play, helping to solidify women’s sports at Nevada. The celebration would be cut short though when in 1921, women’s sports were banned from competing in intercollegiate competitions on campus.

The move to remove women’s sports wasn’t just an isolated incident however, public outcry from around the nation led to many universities to ban the right for women to compete in collegiate sports. The citizens of the day stated that it was “unladylike” to compete in sports and nearly led to the complete shutdown of the women’s intercollegiate play.

For roughly the next 40 years, women’s sports at Nevada consisted of events referred to as “play days.” At these events, colleges would come together with various teams and clubs to compete, it was intended to not display their true athletic ability, but to highlight the “spirit of competition”. Some of the sports represented ranged from basketball to skiing. These “play days” were heavily underfunded, with some attendees stating that they had to make their own uniforms.

Progress towards full recognition started to take shape when Ruth Russell became the director of women’s athletics in 1948, serving at the position until 1969. She helped to campaign for women’s sports on campus and laid the groundwork for them to return near the end of her tenure. Russell’s legacy continues to this day in the form of the Ruth Russell award, given to the top female student-athlete on campus every year.

With the passing of Title IX as a part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, women’s collegiate sports were finally given an opportunity to return on a national scale. Title IX required all federally funded institutions to have equal opportunities for men and women. Progress had been achieved, but it would still be close to a decade till the first NCAA women’s sports championship was held. Over the next two decades, Nevada fell in line with Title IX compliance, opening the doors for women to succeed on the court, field or track.

Swim and Dive

Swim and dive is the most successful program on campus, out of the 13 women’s national championships that Nevada has to its name, 10 have come from the swim and dive team. The program’s first national championship came in 1979 when they won the AIAW Division II national championship. Since that first championship, Nevada swim and dive has gone on to produce individual champions ranging from the breaststroke and butterfly, to various dive heights. The program has also produced six athletes who have gone on to compete in the Olympics.

One of the biggest reasons for their success has been longtime head dive coach Jian Li You. You has helmed the dive team for 22 years, leading the program to new heights and helped to shape a champion during her time here. In 2016, diver Sharae Zheng was the national champion for the one and three-meter dive.

Diving coach Jian Li You poses with diver Sharae Zheng after a successful swiming and diving championship.

File Photo/Nevada Sagebrush. Diving coach Jian Li You poses with diver Sharae Zheng after a successful swiming and diving championship run in 2016. You is in her third decade as a coach at the university.

You has also picked up a few accolades of her own, receiving her eighth diving coach of the year award following the 2017 season. She’s won the award from both the Western Athletic Conference and the Mountain West Conference. You has been named diving coach of the year every year since Nevada joined the MWC. Additionally, for the last six years straight, a Nevada diver has been named the conference diver of the year under You.

You’s expertise in diving came from her upbringings in China. From 1976-80, You competed for the Chinese National Team, becoming the platform, one-meter and three-meter national champion. The culmination of her competitive career came when she represented China at the 1980 Olympics. After failing to capture any medals at the Olympics, she went on to coach both American and Chinese divers before ultimately immigrating to the United States in 1995.

The Wolf Pack swim and dive team hit a level of success in the mid-1990s and late 2000s that has yet to be matched by any other sport on campus. Starting in 1996, Nevada won five straight Big West Conference championships. In 2007-09, swim and dive continued their historic ways by winning the WAC championships.

In recent years, the swim team captured their first MWC Championship in 2016, going a perfect 10-0 on the season and climbing into the top 25 national rankings. One of the leaders on the team was senior Erin Fuss, a member, and leader, of the swim team from 2012-16. She credits the coaching for the team’s success.

“I swam my first three years under Abby Steketee and she made us believers. She raised the expectation to a higher level. Neil [Harper] came in after and solidified that. He brought us together as a team for that higher goal,” Fuss said.

Nevada swim and dive continues to lead the way for athletic success on campus to this day. On March 13, 2019, Wolf Pack diver Laura Isabel Vazquez Lopez qualified for the NCAA Diving Championships, continuing the programs track record of excellence.

Nevada swim and dive continues to lead the way for athletic success on campus to this day. On March 13, 2019, Wolf Pack diver Laura Isabel Vazquez Lopez qualified for the NCAA Diving Championships, continuing the programs track record of excellence.


Women’s Basketball

Originally begun in 1896, Nevada women’s basketball is one of the oldest sports on campus, though their history — as previously mentioned — is a bit of a rollercoaster. After the aforementioned ban on women’s sports on campus, the team was officially brought back in 1981.

When the team first began to play in 1896, they did so without a coach. It wasn’t until the 1899 season when the team hired its first coach, a gymnasium assistant from Stanford named Ada Edwards.  Edwards only coached the team for a brief time but helped to deliver a historic win over Stanford. The victory was Nevada’s first-ever win over a varsity team, for men or women.

In the years following the win, the team would be demoted to a club activity and only given play time during the “play days”. Little is known about the club/team because of improper record keeping from those days, official records weren’t kept until the 1981 season, the same year women’s basketball was recognized by the NCAA.

Nevada Women’s Basketball has made two major championship tournaments since the 1981 season, in 2007 and 2011, both appearances were at the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The 2011 season was the farthest a team had ever made it in program history in  the tournament, beating St. Mary’s in the first round in a close match, but ultimately falling to Southern California by 19 points.

Over the history of Nevada women’s basketball, the Wolf Pack has had two former players go onto the play in the WNBA, both of whom were drafted in the third round of their respective drafts. Tahnee Robinson was selected by the Phoenix Mercury in 2011, and Mimi Mungedi went in the 2015 draft to the Tulsa Shock.

Currently, the program is led by head coach Amanda Levens coming off her second season with the Pack.  With a young squad consisting of six freshman, the program is primed to head into the future optimistic. In their last game of the season, the Wolf Pack nearly edged out eventual MWC champions, Boise State.



In 1976, women’s tennis was first started under head coach Elaine Dellar. Dellar remains the second-winningest coach in program history to this day with a .678 win percentage. She remained the head coach through the 1984 season, before stepping down and relinquishing the program to Beff Drakulich. Drakulich only stayed with the team for one season before leaving the program as well. Nevada women’s tennis wouldn’t find a long time fit at head coach until 1987 when the program hired Kurt Richter, who led the team until 2005, serving the program longer than his three predecessors combined. When Richter left the team, he said it was due to personal reasons.

“I’ve committed 17-and-a-half years of my life to the University of Nevada and its tennis programs. Unfortunately, there is never a convenient or easy time to step down. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I wish the athletics department and tennis programs success in the future,” Richter said.

Under Richter, Nevada finished top five in conference standings 13 of his 17 and a half year career. Part of the reason Richter was so successful was fantastic play from his student-athletes, including Nevada tennis great, Tracy King.

From 1988-92, King was named to the First-Team All-Conference each year, the first Pack tennis player to earn such an accomplishment. King is also tied for first place for most victories in a single season with Claudia Herrero at 24 a piece. She is only second all-time at Nevada in total victories, coming behind Michelle Okhremchuk who has five more wins than King. Okhremchuk represented the Pack from 2010-14, under current head coach Guillaume Tonelli.



Women’s golf officially began play in 1997 and started strong in their first season with the help of freshman Angie Yoon. Yoon helped Nevada to moderate success in their first conference championship — Nevada at the time as part of the Big West Conference — tying for fifth overall at the tournament as an individual athlete, and helping the Pack to a fifth-place finish.

In her remaining three years with the Wolf Pack, Yoon finished as the Big West player of the year twice, going back to back in 1999 and 2000. Yoon is one of only two players in program history to win a conference player of the year award, the other being Alana Condon, who won in 2003 in the WAC. She is also the only All-American that the program has ever produced.

As a team, Women’s golf has won seven tournament titles since the team’s inception, with the latest win coming in 2017 at the Fresno State Classic. Nevada also has 15 individual tournament winners, including nine from Yoon.



First coming onto campus in 2000 under head coach Dang Pibulvech, the program struggled in its early years, going 12-58-2 under Pibulvech. Terri Patraw was brought in to replace the struggling program and helped the program she did.

In her second season as head coach, Patraw turned a two win program in the year before, into an 11 win squad. She even further improved the team, leading them to 13 wins the following year— this is the highest season win total in program history —, before leaving Nevada after the seasons’ completion.

The 2006 team was is the only championship team in program history, defeating Boise State in the WAC championship. The game hit overtime and was decided in the end on penalty kicks, Nevada prevailed 4-2

In her two successful years with the program, her record was 24-12-6. Even with her two-win first season, Patraw is the winningest coach in program history. The 2005 or 2006 squads hold almost every major school record ranging from total goals to shutouts. The only major statistic that they don’t hold is total overtime games played, both squads are tied for third. 2010’s team has the most overtime appearances in a single season with seven.

Coach Otagaki talking to player

File Photo/Nevada Sagebrush. Coach Erin Otagaki giving he players instruction. Otagaki is entering he third year as head coach of the Nevada Soccer team.

Much like women’s basketball, Soccer is prepared for future success with eight freshmen on the roster, and only three graduating seniors. Kendal Stovall, who is entering her junior year next season, will also return. Head coach Erin Otagaki will have the bulk of roster back next season, as they look to rebound and build on a 4-13-2 season.


Cross Country and Track and Field

The vast majority of women’s cross country success is on the more recent side of history. Although the team was first founded in 1982, the team saw very little triumph in their early years. The only team finish of note came in 1986 at West Coast Athletic Conference 5K race, Nevada finished second out of seven teams. That’s not to say there were not great individual athletes, because there were, just little overall team success.

One of the earliest standout stars for the Pack, was runner Patty Young. In the same race mentioned prior, Young was the first place overall winner with a time 17:47. Young currently holds the record for the sixth fastest 5000-meter in Nevada history, running the race with a time of 17:17, back in 1986.

Nevada didn’t find team success until just over 20 years after the birth of the team, when the Pack took first place in the WAC 5K in 2003, earning the program’s first and only conference championship.

The first female athlete to represent Nevada at the Track and Field National Championships came in 1994 when Ali McKnight competed in the Heptathlon taking fifth place. She returned again in 1995 taking second place in the same event. Nevada didn’t see another athlete compete for a national championship until 2002 when Jennifer Ashcroft placed seventh in pole vault.

The track and field team has seen a recent boost from sophomore Nicola Ader. Ader qualified to compete in the high jump at the 2019 NCAA Indoor National Championships. Her highest jumped totaled out at 5’ 9.25”, earning her a ninth-place finish and making her a second-team All-American. Her finish was the highest ever placing for an indoor track athlete in Nevada history.



In Volleyball’s 35 years on campus, they have qualified for the NCAA tournament five times, in 1998, 2001-02 and 2004-05. Unfortunately for the Wolf Pack, the program has never advanced farther than the first round of the NCAA tournament. They did however win the WAC tournament in 2002 and 2004.  Over that stretch of time, two players particularly impacted the program, Michelle Moore and Salaia Salave’a.

Moore competed for the Wolf Pack from 1999-2002, etching her name in the Nevada record books during her time on campus. She is the single-season leader in both points and kills — points were not tracked until the 2001 season. After her time with the Pack she went on to become one half of the volleyball duo dubbed “Team Gorgeous” with former Nevada volleyball player Suzanne Stonebarger.

Building on Moore’s legacy, Salave`a broke multiple records and set many of her own, even passing Moore in some, as she played four seasons with the Pack from 2002-05. Salave’a is the single-season leader in solo blocks, block assists and total blocks. She also the career leader in points, solo blocks and total blocks. Salave`a earned three individual honors while at Nevada, the first in 2002 when Salave’a was crowned the WAC Freshman of the Year, next in 2004 being named as an Honorable mention to the All-West team and lastly when she was named to the All-West team in 2005 with honorable All-American mentions.



Softball is the newest women’s sport on campus, started first in 2003 with head coach Michelle Gardner at the helm. It only took until 2006 for the program to reach its first NCAA tournament — they also reached the tournament in 2008 and 2009. That 2006 season largely relied on the arm of Jordan McPherson.

McPherson is one of the prolific pitchers in Nevada history, setting multiple records that have yet to be broken. She is the single-season record holder for strikeouts and shutouts and has the lowest ERA in the history of Nevada softball. McPherson was key in the team’s 2006 WAC tournament run, pitching all 41 innings of the tournament, in route to Nevada’s first-place finish — she was named the tournament’s MVP for striking out 34 batters and didn’t give up a single earned run in the tournament.

McPherson played at Nevada through the 2008 season, another historic season, and was again a crucial element to its success. Softball finished with a 44-18 record that year and was considered a top 25 program by both USA Today and ESPN, again winning the WAC championship.

The 2008 team earned a spot in postseason play, being invited to the NCAA Regionals and advancing to the championship game of the tournament. Nevada’s run ended there, dropping the game 6-4 against UCLA.


Gone but not forgotten

There are three major programs that are no longer sanctioned women’s sports at Nevada, Ski, Rifle and Gymnastics. The Ski team dates back to 1936 but was cut in 2009 for budgetary reasons. However, the team still operates as a club and regularly competes, qualifying last year for the National USCSA Collegiate Championships.

In 1969, the first women’s sports scholarship at Nevada was awarded to Candy Oliver Borda of the women’s gymnastics team. She helped to lead the program to the championship round of the Southwest Regional Collegiate Gymnastics Tournament in 1971. She was inducted into the Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 for her outstanding performance while at Nevada.

Rifle is the most recent sport to disbanded on campus, being officially shut down following their latest competition earlier this month. The current roster was a majority women’s team — they were the last co-ed sport on campus. During the programs run at Nevada, Rifle placed as high as second in the nation, this was in 2004, losing to eventual national champions Alaska Fairbanks.

Over the last 100 years, women’s sports at Nevada have added to the rich history that’s already associated with the university. The current nine programs housed on campus will continue to grow and produce champions like they’ve been doing for decades.


Ryan Freeberg can be reached at dstrugs@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.