The match would have been historic regardless, as the Golden Bobcats were playing their first home sporting event. But they made the night even sweeter with a 25-16, 27-25, 20-25, 25-18 win over Pacific Union College in their California Pacific Conference debut.
“Getting a win at home, it’s nice to have the community out and the fan support,” coach Allen McCreary said. “It’s just a big occasion for all of us.”
The Bobcats rode a wave of emotion to a 25-16 victory in the opening set, then pulled off a dramatic 27-25 victory in the second after fighting off multiple set points by the Pioneers. The winning point came on a serve by Brigitte Mayes that clipped the top of the net and tumbled over.
“When you have a huge crowd like that supporting the team, it not only brings us up, but it pushes (the other team) down,” said sophomore Alexandria Curtis, who had 10 kills and 16 digs for the Bobcats. “It shows that our school has a lot of support. It shows that we want to win. We want to take this for UC Merced.”
After faltering in the third set, UC Merced came back strong to control the fourth and finish off a monumental victory.
“If we look back in the books, we’re the first ones in everything we did right now,” said true freshman Valeria Martinez, who came through with a number of big plays in the final set. “I’m proud for myself and the team.”
Martinez was dominant, leading all players with 24 kills and 17 digs. McCreary credited Martinez and Curtis with pushing the team to victory.
“They’re outstanding athletes,” he said. “They carry the team on their shoulders. When it’s time to get down and dirty, they ask for the ball and they want the ball. They’re probably the two best athletes I have on the team right now, and they’re pushing everybody else to be better.”
Mayes added six kills and five aces for the Bobcats, while Rachel DeVera contributed 10 digs and setter Caroline Mack had 40 assists.
The Bobcats will face a stiff challenge on Saturday, when they host Cal State San Marcos. The Cougars enter the match ranked No. 17 in the nation and riding a five-match winning streak.