Nevada softball continues to build program using local talent

At some point in an athlete's life, a decision has to be made on where they want to further their respective playing career. While some choose to go far from home and play on the other side of the country, many decide that staying close to what they know is what matters.

 For most athletes, the thought of being near family and friends comes with a sense of pride and comfort that can only be described with one word: home. With nearly 40 percent of its 2018 roster being from Northern Nevada, the Wolf Pack softball program has discovered that it doesn't need to look far in order find the players that best fit the program.

 "I think having so many players from the area generates a level of excitement around our program," head coach Josh Taylor said. "Our fans have already been following these players for their entire high school careers and for them to be able to continue to follow them at Nevada is exciting."

 According to Taylor, it's important for his Northern Nevadan players to represent their city and state, as it is something they all take a great deal of pride in. To these 10 student-athletes, wearing that Nevada uniform creates a certain loyalty and passion towards not just the program, but the University of Nevada as a whole.

 "Playing for my hometown has been an amazing experience for me," sophomore Kenzi Goins said. "I love having the support from my family and friends while being able to give back to the community that raised me."

With Jensen, Sellers and Smith joining the Pack this season, Goins hopes the four of them can have the same success in college as they did in high school.

Goins is one of four players on the team who graduated from Reed High School, and when the 2018 season gets underway on Feb. 8 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, she will be joined by some familiar faces. Freshmen Julia Jensen, Rheanna Smith and Jessica Sellers will all sport the Silver and Blue for the first time, reuniting a quartet that saw arguably the most dominating high school softball programs in all of Nevada.

Through the help of these four, Reed became a powerhouse in the state, winning multiple regional championships and capping off the 2015 season by capturing a state title. 

"I feel very lucky to be able to play with Kenzi, Jessica and Rheanna because we made so many memories at Reed," Jensen said. "Now, we have an incredible opportunity to build on those memories and make even more together."

Yet, the local faces on Nevada's 2018 roster don't stop on the campus of Reed High School. Rather, the familiarity branches out south to Damonte Ranch High School, the alma mater of freshman Emma Covert and even to Reno High School, where sophomore Kylee Spencer graduated from.

Sophomore Sadaria McAlister, a product of McQueen High School, feels there's an unparalleled bond with her teammates that she now calls friends. She claims the commonalities of being from the same area is a characteristic that helps everyone support each other.

"It's a pleasure to know that there is so much talent to come out of a little city," McAlister said. "We have an opportunity to all play together for a great program and I enjoy playing with each every one of them because they all bring different personalities and strengths to the team."

One of the most distinctive characteristics about these local student-athletes is that they aren't all from the Reno-Sparks area. With this year's roster covering nearly 1,100 square miles of the Northern Nevada region, many of the team's local players find that being so close to home has a much more significant meaning than just what happens on the field.