slynch@mercedsun-star.comNovember 19, 2012 

Kuuipolani Braceros' road to UC Merced has been one of perseverance.

The Merced College sophomore did everything in her power to be a part of the Golden Bobcats' volleyball team in its inaugural 2011 season, but it wasn't in the cards.

The former Merced High star opted for Plan B and Merced College, all the while keeping her eye on the prize.

The delay proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Rather the sitting idly on her hands, Braceros matured as a person and volleyball player. And while it came two years later than anticipated, her patience and continued hard work paid off in the fulfillment of her dream.

Braceros will sign her letter of intent today, becoming the first member of Allen McCreary's 2013 recruiting class.

"I really wanted to go to UC Merced as a freshman, but it fell through," Braceros said. "Looking back at it now, it's probably the best thing that could have happened.

"If I could do it over, I wouldn't change anything.

"It means a lot that they've stuck by me and supported me the last two years until I could transfer over."

Braceros becomes the second Lady Devil in as many years to transfer to UC Merced, joining middle blocker Patricia Schellentrager.

The Golden Bobcats add a big, athletic body that led Merced College in kills and blocks this season.

"We knew she was someone who could help the team no matter what," McCreary said. "She's going to bring a lot of leadership, she's got a good skill set and experience from playing college volleyball the last two years.

"Her outside game is something we lacked this season and I think she can make a big impact right away."

Bobcats' first taste

Three members of the UC Merced cross country teams participated in the NAIA National Championships at Vancouver, Wash., last weekend.

It was a historic day for the program, competing in just its second varsity season.

Senior Andrew Pierce had the best performance, closing out his Bobcat career with a time of 27:32, good for 239th.

Freshmen Manuel Ortiz (28:35) and Sophia Ortiz (21:08) finished 286th and 263rd respectively.

Slow out of the gate

The first month of the season hasn't proved kind to the area's four college basketball teams.

The Merced College and UC Merced men's and women's teams are a collective 0-18 to start the year.

The MC men will have the next chance at a first win, hosting San Joaquin Delta tonight. The UC Merced women will host Holy Names College on Wednesday.

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