Nine new members of this year’s UC Merced Women’s Volleyball team, from all around the Central Valley, are among the campus’s first group of recruited student athletes.
They began practice and play in early August, and already hosted their first tournament – the UC Merced/Holiday Inn Express Invitational featuring teams from Oregon Tech, Embry Riddle, Menlo College and West Coast Baptist.
They’ve also already had a write-up in the Los Angeles Times, which said “The Golden Bobcats bounced back from an 0-4 start in the opening weekend with a perfect showing at their own tournament. Allen McCreary's squad wrapped up a 3-0 run at the Holiday Inn Express Invitational with a 25-13, 25-23, 25-18 sweep of West Coast Baptist on Saturday night at Hostetler Court. UC Merced shared the unofficial five-team tournament crown with fellow California Pacific Conference foe Menlo College, which also went 3-0.”
This weekend, the team is at Concordia University in Irvine to play in the 2012 Asics/Wyndham Hotel Labor Day Classic. “This is going to be a tough schedule,” said Coach Allen McCreary. “We’re going to play some best teams in NAIA. But you have to play the best to be the best.”
With nine new members and an all-conference player returning, the key to a successful season is going to be how quickly the players come together as a team, McCreary said.
The new recruits, who can play multiple positions, and the six returning players all have good experience that will help the team when it faces highly ranked teams this fall, McCreary said. Going up against teams ranked Nos. 2, 5, 16 and 17 will make for a tough road this fall, he said.
McCreary said UC Merced has the ability to be a top-three contender in the California-Pacific Conference, and have a good chance of going all the way in the championships.
This year's team members are: Justina Keith and McKenzie Willett, both from Oakdale; Kathryn Blake of Merced and Genna Garrett of Modesto; Raquel Casto and Arianna Martinez , both of Stockton; Vickie Rouse from Turlock; Valeria Martinez from Madera; Carlie Mack from Los Angeles; Patricia Schellentrager from Mariposa; Leah Beza from Sacramento; Valorie Smart from Vacaville; Lauren Taylor from Denair; and Sam Chang from Daly City.
“They are all going to hold important pieces of the puzzle,” McCreary said. “They are excited to be here, and excited to show what they bring to the school.”
Though each of the nine players was recruited for her prowess on the court, they will all be expected to excel at their studies, too. Their majors are varied, and include literature, human biology and engineering.
When recruiting, McCreary said, he set out to find players who are well rounded, have a lot of heart and determination and good skills, but also women who are open to trying new ways of doing things.
“We look for good athletes who can play at a high level,” he said. This is McCreary’s second year of coaching women’s volleyball at UC Merced, and the campus’ second year of having an NAIA women's volleyball team.
The campus added two new NAIA-sanctioned teams this year – women’s soccer and women’s basketball, and will add two more, men's soccer and men's volleyball, bringing the total to eight.
“Eight teams is a good place to be right now,” said athletics Director David Dunham. “We want to be able to focus on these teams and do really well before we expand again.”