A journey four years in the making is close to a completion.
UC Merced announced last week that it will be adding two more sports -- men's soccer and volleyball -- for the 2013-2014. It will bring the Golden Bobcats to eight varsity teams, the number initially suggested by its Blue Ribbon commission four years ago when the school first decided to pursue intercollegiate athletics.
The school wasted little time, introducing four varsity sports in the fall of 2011. Women's soccer and basketball began play this year.
"I think for us it's been just following the process laid out by the Blue Ribbon commission," said David Dunham, campus director of recreation and athletics. "Adding men's soccer and volleyball are just the next logical step.
"I think the athletics program has brought us closer to the community. We obviously have a lot more events going on at the campus now and the community has reached out."
UC Merced plans to make due with the eight teams for now, waiting to see how the programs and school develop before making any decisions on further expansion.
Money will be the big factor moving forward with sports like baseball, softball and aquatics requiring new infrastructure to be built.
"The really nice part is once these two programs are up and running we can kind of sit back and watch how they develop," Dunham said.
The coaching search for both programs will begin in November according to Dunham. The soccer team will begin competing in the California Pacific Conference right away, while the volleyball team will compete as an NAIA independent.
That's how you bounce back
It looked like it could be a long first season when the Golden Bobcat women's soccer team opened intercollegiate play with an 8-1 thrashing at the hands of Cal State East Bay.
Megan Atoigue's squad has had other ideas.
UC Merced has responded with three straight victories, outscoring opponents 17-3 during the span.
Claudia Diaz has been a big part of that success. The sophomore has scored in every game for the Bobcats, leading the team with nine goals.
She was named the California Pacific Conference Offensive Soccer Player of The Week last week after netting four goals and an assist in a victory over UC Bethesda.
UC Merced opens conference play today at Menlo College.
More Bobcat firsts
UC Merced's historic second year of intercollegiate competition added to its list of accomplishments over the weekend when the cross country teams and soccer teams hosted their first on-campus events.
The UC Merced Fall 5 Miler started small in its first year with just the Bobcats, Cal Maritime and some unaffiliated runners participating.
UC Merced's Andrew Pierce won the men's race with fellow Bobcat Sofia Rios capturing the women's event.
The soccer team christened its new field with with a 3-1 victory over Las Positas College.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at email@example.com.