UC Merced men's soccer steps up to NAIA

Bobcats eager to start new era

slynch@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 8, 2013 

For the better part of a month, Albert Martins has looked like a kid on Christmas morning. The first-year UC Merced men's soccer coach has been bubbling over with excitement in anticipation of the team's inaugural NAIA season.

"It's been on my mind a little bit," Martins said. "My wife is sick of hearing it because I've talked about it so much. She's really tried to calm me down, but now that we're so close it's been tough."

Martins' wait is almost over. The Golden Bobcats open the regular season on Sept. 10 at home against William Jessup at 3 p.m. Martins will roll out with a 25-man roster, but two have already been lost to injury.

The group promises to be young with 12 freshmen and 15 total underclassmen. Martins believes that youth will provide an entertaining brand of play, though.

"Until we start playing some games we're not completely sure what we have, but I believe our attack should be pretty exciting," Martins said. "We've got guys up there with a lot of pace and should make things difficult on teams when we counter attack."

Senior Sean Ritchey is the glue who will hold that attack together from the midfield. Martins said he was one of the big forces on the school's club team and should transition well to the next level.

He'll be feeding the ball to a familiar name in former Golden Valley star Cody Golbad. The former Central California Conference Offensive Player of the Year gives the Bobcats lots of pace and a deft finishing touch. Martins said he'll team with attacking midfielder Jesus Alvarez to give the team a potent 1-2 punch.

"I like what we've seen so far in our scrimmage, but I know we still haven't experienced that college-game atmosphere yet," Martins said. "We haven't gone through the rigors of a college season. We've got some skill and potential, but those are the biggest adjustments we're going to have to make."

UC women's soccer

Megan Atoigue doesn't have Martins' chipper disposition heading into her second season as head coach. After going 6-7 in 2012, the possible season-long losses of her top two returning players (Desiree Coles and CC Vazquez) in the last couple weeks has soured what was a highly-anticipated second campaign.

Still, Atoigue is excited about what she's put together in her first 10-freshman recruiting class. She said the group has a lot of skill and the losses of her two center backs is just going to get everyone involved that much faster.

"We haven't had the results we've wanted in our scrimmages, but we've competed in all of them against D2 schools," Atoigue said. "We've got 14 returners and 22 that are traveling, so there's a good mix of new and experience. The biggest difference between this year and last year will be our depth."

UCM will open the season at Mills College on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Leading scorer Claudia Diaz is back to pace their attack. Attacking midfielders Vanessa Villacorta (junior transfer) and freshman Daisy Bonilla are expected to find the back of the net. Atoigue said the team has also added a future star in freshman goalkeeper Maggie Morales.

"The team's goals are to finish over .500 and to get back to the playoffs," Atoigue said. "We should have a good chance to do both."

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