If the UC Merced womens volleyball team was going to compete with the upper echelon of NAIA schools, it needed to be faster.
In a sport where almost everyone has its share of big hitters, fluidity and tempo often distinguish a good offense from a great one.
Golden Bobcats head coach Allen McCreary brought in freshman setter Genna Garrett to help move the team toward the latter.
Her impact was immediate and overt.
UC Merced routinely played at a pace it wasnt capable of a season ago. Like all freshmen, Garrett experienced her share of ups and downs, but when she confidently was running the court, the Bobcats could play with anyone.
Garrett finished second in the California Pacific Conference with 787 assists and led the conference with 7.7 assists per set.
The rest of the league took note.
Garrett was named to the Cal Pac second team and earned the honor of Freshman of the Year.
I knew the conference obviously had awards, but I didnt know that was one of them, Garrett said. It really means a lot, especially with some of the other great freshmen that I played with.
I think I brought a lot of what Coach (McCreary) expected of me. I felt like I was ready to take on this challenge and I think I did so to the best of my ability.
I came farther and learned more this year than I pretty much ever have, so Im looking forward to where I can go from here.
Garrett was one of three UCM players named to the second team. Shes joined by sophomore middle blocker Kathryn Blake (174 kills, team-high 65 blocks) and sophomore outside hitter Valeria Martinez (team-high 233 kills, 34 aces, 255 digs).
It wasnt really the season wed hoped to have, but I think with three underclassmen getting recognized, it shows this teams potential, Garrett said.
UC Merced wasnt the only local team to turn some heads this season.
Merced College also had three players recognized with postseason awards.
Kuuipolani Braceros led the Lady Devils in kills and blocks and was named to the Central Valley Conference first team.
Noelle Granado, who led MC in digs, was named to the second team.
Jaclyn Frank did a little of everything really well for the Lady Devils earning her an honorable mention.
Garrett wasnt the only freshman to make a big splash on the UC Merced campus this fall.
Desiree Coles was named co-Freshman of the Year for the Cal Pac after logging quality minutes at stopper and midfield for the Bobcats.
She and defender CC Vasquez each made the second team in the soccer programs inaugural varsity season.