Today and Thursday, we are going to list the Top Ten Texas Tech Athletes from the past school year. We’ll stretch over many sports from freshmen to seniors, from team sports to individual, from fall sports to spring sports.
We’re going to take a look at their individual accomplishments, what their team accomplished, how popular their sport is (competing with more athletes in high school and NCAA, along with audience pressure), the pressure they encountered from postseason and how important they were to their team. We’ll review No. 10-6 today, then No. 5-1 on Thursday.
Disagree with the position of an athlete? Feel like we’re missing someone important? Voice your opinion below and start a (friendly) discussion.
- Dakota Allen, LB, Football — Allen received second team Big 12 honors, and arguably could’ve been a first team linebacker if the team didn’t consist of just three linebackers. He totaled 101 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery and forced fumble. He was the leader of the defense.
- Justus Parker, DB, Football — The former walk-on and second team Big 12 defensive back became a playmaker for the Red Raiders this season. He had a fumble return for a touchdown, four interceptions (including a big one against UT) and had four forced fumbles. Need a big play? Let Justus prevail.
- Caleb Kilian, RHP, Baseball — Steven Gingery probably would’ve made the list had he not gotten injured, but Kilian has stepped up as the best pitcher on the staff this year. He became a Big 12 first team pitcher and posted a 3.24 ERA (it was 2.30 before the postseason) and had 7.85 K/9. He also had nine wins.
- Adam Blomme, Golf — Blomme finished T21st overall with a score of +2 at the NCAA Golf Tournament, the third best on the team, to help them finish third and advance to the quarterfinals. He finished T18 overall and first on the team at the Big 12 Championship. He also won his match-up against NCAA runner-up Alabama in the quarterfinals.
- Fredrik Nilehn, Golf — Although Nilehn didn’t compete in the postseason due to injury, he had the best to par on the team with a -2 on the season and earned first team All-American honors. He had first two first finishes, two top five finishes and four top 10 finishes.
- Sarina Federici, Tennis — In her final season, the senior earned first team doubles and second team singles awards. She was ranked No. 106 overall in the ITA rankings and No. 27 in the doubles rankings.
- Missey Owens, Setter, Volleyball — Owens was the lone Red Raider to earn a postseason award this season, as she was a Big 12 second team setter. In 112 sets, Owens recorded 131 kills, 1,217 assists, 258 digs and 180 points.
- Ally Griffin, Forward, Soccer — Griffin had a fantastic freshman year, with six goals, one assists and 13 points (the most on the team). She had a 48.3% shot on goal and was named an all Big 12 second team and freshman forward.
- Odaine Lewis, Triple/Long Jump, Field — A lot of the attention as been on Divine Oduduru and Trey Culver, but Lewis earned two first team All-American honors by finishing second in the triple jump and third in the long jump.
- Zarriea Willis, High Jump, Field — Willis earned first team All-American honors with a sixth place finish in outdoor. At the Indoor national championship meet, she finished fourth place.
No. 10 Ivan Ramirez, Golf
|Top 5 finshes
|Top 10 finishes
Why He Was Chosen?: This was a hard decision on which golfer I wanted to put here. One could argue that Adam Blomme should be here instead of Ivan Gonzalez with his win in the NCAA quarterfinal and higher Big 12 tournament finish.
Or Hurly Long with a low Par this season and best round low this season at 61. Or Fredrik Nilehn, who was a Golfweek first team All-American before getting injured an not being able to compete in the postseason.
However, Ivan Ramirez perhaps had the best performance of the group on a big stage against tough competition at the NCAA tournament. Against some of the best amateur golfers in the country, he had a four round score of -5, which was good for fourth best in the nation and highest in Tech history. His lowest round was -4 during the first round.
The Red Raiders finished third in the tournament, and nine strokes better than the cut-off line. If Ramirez doesn’t have the performance he has, Texas Tech might not have made the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately, Ramirez was unable to win his match-up against Alabama and the team fell 3-2 in the quarterfinals, but they lost to the NCAA runner-ups and had their best finish in program history (a common occurrence on this list). He also finished T31st in the Big 12 tournament, which was third on the team.
He’s only a junior and will have a chance to return to the NCAA tournament next season. We might not have yet seen the best of Ramirez.
Read how it happened ➡ https://t.co/cu4VfAzWcb
Watch how it happened (You’ll want to see these shots) ⬇ pic.twitter.com/mE39kocwNy
— Texas Tech Men’s Golf (@TexasTechMGolf) May 29, 2018
No. 9 Jessica Hartwell, 1B, Softball
Why She Was Chosen?: Hartwell is possibly the best player at Texas Tech that no one has really talked about. This may because of the state of the softball program, but she truly was one of the best athletes on campus. I mean, just look at here accolades from the past season.
She was an NFCA All-American, NFCA All-Region First Team, All-Big 12 First Team and won a National Player of the Week award for two separate weeks (USA Softball on March 6th, FastPitch News on April 10). That’s friggin insane.
Hartwell had 20 home runs on the season, with the rest of the team combining for 30, with a slash line of .400/.490/.897 and an OPS of 1.387. She also stole 16 bases, had 61 RBIs and scored 63 runs.
The only categories she didn’t lead in among the starters were hits (they walked her a bunch), triples (by one triple), fielding percentage (by .002) and sacrifices (just hit homers instead). She was a one women wrecking crew for Gergory’s club.
Hartwell also ranked in many categories nationally, which includes 20 HRs (T6th, also a school record), 1.09 runs/game (5th), 148 TB (6th), .897 SLG (9th) and 61 RBIs (15th). These stats helped her became the third All-American in program history, along with Sandy Butler in 1998 and Amanda Renfro in 2001.
The team made their first postseason appearance since 2012 thanks to Hartwell. Luckily, she is a junior and will return next year, along with a boat load of freshman who started for the team this season.
No. 8 Gabriela Talaba, Women’s Tennis
|No. 18 (National), No. 2 (Region)
|No. 67 (National), No. 4 (Region)
Why She Was Chosen?: Women’s Tennis was one of five Texas Tech programs to make it to their respective Elite Eights, and Gabriela Talaba was the best player of the group.
The native Romanian was named All-Big 12 first team in both singles and doubles (along with Felicity Matlby), and earned a few national honors like the ITA Texas Region Senior Player of the Year and was an ITA All-American.
The reason why I choose her over Hartwell was her consistency of excellence. She was an All-Big 12 first team singles player three times, first team doubles player twice and an ITA All-American twice in her career.
Her career moment came against No. 6 Texas in the Sweet Sixteen. Texas Tech was ranked No. 11 and need to defeat their conference rival to advance. Talaba won both her singles and doubles match, giving the Red Raiders two of their four points in their 4-1 win. Her straight set win over No. 1 Bianca Turati gave Tech the highest ranked win in program history.
Talaba was also successful in a non-team setting as she became the first Red Raider to advance to the NCAA singles Sweet 16 and finished her career ranked No. 18 in the country. She has finished No. 67 in doubles.
With a Sweet 16 singles appearance and two Elite Eight appearances, she had a heck of a career.
2⃣x ITA All-American
1⃣ NCAA Singles Sweet 16
2⃣x NCAA Singles Championships Qualifier
5⃣x All-Big 12
3⃣x Academic All-Big 12
2018 ITA Texas Region Senior Player of the Year
2017 Big 12 Player of the Year
2015 Big 12 Freshman of the Year
What an outstanding career! pic.twitter.com/TyKHcv8ynL
— Texas Tech Tennis (@TexasTechTennis) May 25, 2018
Gabriela Talaba just defeated No. 1 Bianca Turati 6-4, 6-2, marking the highest ranked singles win in school history!!! Lady Raiders lead 3-1! pic.twitter.com/QWWyacpwVe
— Texas Tech Tennis (@TexasTechTennis) May 17, 2018
No. 7 Keke Coutee, WR, Football
|10 REC, 1 KR
|7.2 catches, 109.9 yards
Why He Was Chosen?: All of you reading this are well aware why Keke Coutee is on this list. He was voted an All-Big 12 second team wide receiver, despite the fact he was better in every category statistically than Allen Lazard. He was also drafted in the early fourth round by the Houston Texans.
The reason why I placed him above the three athletes below him was because of the stage on competition he played on. Football is an uber popular sport and he had to play on national television most weeks. And he still ranked high receiving wise in the nation.
Coutee finished the season close to many school records, which includes the second most receiving yards in a season, seven most catches, and 10th in all-purpose yards. In 2017 nationally, he was fourth in receiving yards, eighth in catches per game, 16th in receiving touchdowns, and 18th in all-purpose yards.
He was a first team All-Big 12 by Pro Football Focus and All-Big 12 all purpose player by ESPN. Not only that, but he was also a semifinalist for both the Bilenikoff Award and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award.
His biggest moments came against a shoot-out with Arizona State, where he caught a career high 12 passes for 186 yards, and against Houston when he caught a career high 77 yard touchdown to pull away.
Coutee also broke career highs in receiving yards (189 against Knasas State), returned the opening kickoff against Baylor for a touchdown and broke Tech school records for yards (187) and receptions (11, tied Joel Filani) in a bowl game.
Coutee became the go-to guy on offense for the Red Raiders and lives in lore of great receivers along with Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Michael Crabtree and Jakeem Grant among others. Now he has a chance to prove himself in the NFL.
No. 6 Trey Culver, High Jump, Track
|7-7.75 (Indoor), 7-3 (Outdoor)
Why He Was Chosen?: Culver has a couple national titles to his name. None this year, but he still finished relatively high and gave the Red Raiders some points in the team standings, which include a fifth place finish in the Track and Field Outdoor season.
He didn’t complete the three peat as the Indoor Track and Field High Jump Champion, but did finish second and had the fourth highest jump all time in NCAA history in January. In fact, that performance earned him a spot on Sportscenter, which you don’t see much from NCAA Track and Field athletes.
In the Outdoor Track and Field, he finished fourth in the event and gave the Red Raiders points in route to their fifth place finish. He was a leader to the track and field program and was a major contributor to their Big 12 Track and Field title this season.
In all, he was a great Red Raider. He was a senior leader for the team and a great example across the Athletic program. He was the most popular Texas Tech athlete on the track and field team, and to make it even better, he was a native of Lubbock.
Hopefully we will see Culver perform on a bigger stage after his Tech career is done. We saw a couple Red Raiders in the Olympics in 2016, and maybe Culver will be the next one to compete for the U.S.A.
Luckily, this isn’t he last we’ll see of the Culver family. His younger brother Jarrett did well his freshman year for the basketball team and has a bright future for Texas Tech. Perhaps we’ll see him on this list next year.