In its inaugural intercollegiate season, the UC Merced men’s soccer team showed plenty of promise by defeating the eventual conference champions and producing the California Pacific Conference freshman player of the year.
“It was a season of firsts,” said Coach Albert Martins, who now is recruiting for next season. “We were successful because we laid a good foundation for the future.”
Overall, the Bobcats finished the season at 4-10 but played competitively in nearly every game. Small errors created mainly by inexperience made the difference in those close games, Martins said.
The season’s highlights included honors for individual players and a home win over conference champs Embry-Riddle.
“We had that game circled on the calendar,” Martins said. “It was our best game of the year.”
Forward Cody Golbad was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year, becoming the first male student-athlete at UC Merced to win that honor. Both Golbad and teammate Heriberto Diaz were named to the All-Cal Pac second team.
Golbad, who was born and raised in Merced, started every game this year and figures to remain a big part of the team. He finished the season with nine goals and four assists – totaling 22 points – and was nationally ranked in two categories: 15th in shots per game (4.43) and 30th in shots on goal per game (2.21).
Golbad was humble about his individual statistics and the freshman of the year honor.
“I really didn’t even know I would be in the running for that,” he said. “I was more concerned about the team.”
A soccer star from Golden Valley High School, Golbad is in his second year at UC Merced. He said he was considered for the freshman conference honor because it was the Bobcats’ first season.
Golbad said he couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of the university’s new intercollegiate team.
“I couldn’t ask for anything else,” Golbad said of the opportunity to attend UC Merced and play his favorite sport. “I love the campus – everything is brand new. The technology is new, there are amazing people and there’s lots of diversity.”
Golbad hasn’t declared a major but is considering a human biology degree followed by medical school.
Though he plans to explore research opportunities and other activities on campus, Golbad’s schedule is full for now.
“Soccer and school, that’s really all I have time for,” he said. Next year’s soccer team will be deeper and should aim to contend for the conference championship, he said.
“We’ve got to put the work in,” he said. “It will be hard but we definitely have the talent.”
Martins also is optimistic about the future. He’s another homegrown product – a native of Los Banos and a California State, Stanislaus graduate. Prior to coming to UC Merced, Martins coached at CSU Stanislaus, Modesto Junior College and CSU Bakersfield.
“We’re really excited for next year,” he said of the Bobcats’ soccer team. “If we keep improving the way we are, I think we can compete to make the conference tournament.”