Genna Garrett

Garrett became the first volleyball player in school history to win Freshman of the Year honors. In the 2012 campaign, Garrett registered a career-high 744 assists in 27 matches. Her stellar assists total currently stands as the program record. She also tallied 213 digs, 64 kills and 17 service aces. In just her third ever game, Garrett recorded a double-double, tallying 42 assists and 14 digs. In total, she registered 10 double-doubles as a freshman, including in back-to-back games against Simpson and Pacific Union to earn Cal Pac Player of the Week honors. The Modesto, Calif., native went on to record 2, 342 assists in her career, which is 1,000 more than any other Bobcat setter.

Genna Garrett is one of multiple Central Valley natives to have a successful student athlete career at UC Merced. From left to right; Valeria Martinez (Madera, Calif.), Patricia Schellentrager (Mariposa, Calif.), Victoria Rouse (Turlock, Calif.), Genna Garrett (Modesto, Calif.)

Desiree Coles

Desiree Coles was named the Freshman of the Year in women's soccer's inaugural season in 2012. Coles played a huge role as a center defender and center midfielder and ranked second on the team with four goals. Her first career goal came against Menlo College, the same day the program made history by winning it's first ever California Pacific Conference game. By the end of her UC Merced career, Coles had racked up the accolades, none bigger than earning NAIA All-American Honorable Mention honors her senior year.

Coles also earned All-Conference Second Team honors as a freshman. Here she is standing with Director of Recreation & Athletics, David Dunham, at the UC Merced 2012-13 Athletics Banquet.

Shelby Howard

The Bobcats all-time leading scorer joined elite company in the 2012-13 campaign when she earned her Freshman of the Year honor. In the first ever women's basketball game, Howard scored 30 points and more than matched that feat four games later against Holy Names University. The guard recorded 35 points and anchored her team to their first win in program history, 71-69. The following Monday, Howard added to history by becoming the first California Pacific Conference Player of the Week in program history. Her 35-point performance was the highest scoring output of any player in the Cal Pac that season and she is one of just five players since the 2012-13 campaign to score 35 or more points in a game. Howard ended the year averaging just over 16 points per game, which ranked third in the Cal Pac, and secured a spot on the All-Conference First Team. Howard's stellar campaign also earned her a department award as she was named the Female Athlete of the Year.

Shelby Howard (left), pictured with the 2012-13 UC Merced California Pacific Conference Freshman of the Year; Genna Garrett (center), Desiree Coles (right).

Below are the highlight's from Howard's 35-point night against Holy Names University on November 21.

Cody Golbad

One year after Desiree Coles earned Freshman of the Year during the women's inaugural season, Cody Golbad earned the same honor during the men's soccer inaugural season in 2013. Golbad led the team with nine goals and four assists and finished 16th in the NAIA in shots per game. The Merced, Calif., native made his presence felt instantly scoring four goals in the team's first five games. He registered two separate games with at least two goals and one game with two assists. Fast forward one year, the Golden Valley High School product was named a NAIA All-American Honorable Mention. Currently, Golbad is at the top of the Bobcat leader boards with 48 goals.

Golbad was named the National Premier Soccer League National Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks.

Christina Castro

Christina Castro became the second women's basketball player to earn Freshman of the Year honors and did so after finishing Top 10 in the conference in points per game (10.5), assists per game (2.46) and steals per game (1.92). Castro was named Cal Pac Player of the Week on January 26 after scoring a season-high 26 points while shooting a stellar 61% (8-13) from beyond the arc. Castro was also named to the All-Conference First Team. Her strong campaign helped the Bobcats clinch a postseason berth, where they locked in a match with the No. 1 seed and nationally ranked Menlo College. Furthermore, Castro became the hero of the program's first ever postseason victory when she helped her team comeback from a 22-point deficit, scoring the final seven points, including the game-winning shot to advance to the Cal Pac Championship game.

"She's a big time player and she made a big time play," Pham said simply after one of the biggest upsets in program history. "She takes a lot of chances and fortunately the last play she got a steal and then hit a big time shot. There was no play drawn up for that. She took over.

Castro followed that memorable shot by being the leading scorer (20 points) in the Cal Pac Championship game and the Bobcats beat La Sierra 53-43 to make program history and advance to the NAIA National Tournament.

*Castro played in the Cal Pac Championship game all four years of her Bobcat career.

Artemio Contreras

In 2015, Artemio Contreras cemented himself in UC Merced history by being named Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Conference. He ended the year tied for first on the team and fifth in the Cal Pac with 13 goals, averaging out to .72 per game. His 13 goals that season currently ranks second in program history. Contreras would also find himself third in the Cal Pac and 31st nationally with 34 total points. On November 7th, Contreras scored a career-high four goals against Simpson University, making him the only Bobcat in program history to accomplish that feat. The following week he would lead the team to their first ever conference championship appearance.

Aaron Laflin

Aaron Laflin inked his name in the record books by becoming the first UC Merced Men's Basketball Freshman of the Year in the 2015-2016 season. He ranked top ten in the Cal Pac in over five categories including second in rebounding (187) and third in blocked shots (19). On January 30, Laflin posted a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds to lead his team in arguably the best comeback game in program history against nationally ranked Cal Maritime. He also showed his strength from beyond the arc by shooting an impressive 40.3% from long range. Another memorable performance that added to his resume for Freshman of the Year came just one game later when the Santa Maria, Calif., native tallied 23 points and 11 rebounds against Antelope Valley.

Aaron Laflin pictured with men's soccer Freshman of the Year, Artemio Contreras.

Mia Belvin

After leading the Bobcats with 11.7 points per game and leading the conference in steals per game (2.83), Mia Belvin became the third Freshman of the Year for the UC Merced women's basketball program. Her 2.83 spg was the highest defensive output in the Cal Pac since Simpson's Nichole Jones in 2012-13. Nationally, Belvin ranked 12th overall in spg. Offensively, Belvin scored in double figures for the first time in her career with a 20 point performance against Menlo College on November 10. She had 16 double figure scoring games as a freshman, including a season-high 25 points against Benedictine University at Mesa on February 2. She picked up a second season high just two days later, recording six steals against Embry-Riddle (AZ). She also added 4.24 rebounds and 1.79 assists per game while helping lead the Bobcats to their third straight California Pacific Conference Tournament Championship.

Belvin takes her turn at cutting down the net after the 2017 Cal Pac Championship.
Following the Cal Pac Championship, Belvin and the Bobcats nearly upset the No. 1 overall seed in the NAIA National Tournament (83-87 2OT). Belvin collected eight points, three assists and two steals.

Marcus DeCouto

Marcus DeCouto is the most recent freshman phenom to win the award after his incredible season this past year with the men's soccer team. The nearby Turlock prodigy felt right at home this season, scoring a team high eleven goals and a team high ten assists. He became just the third Bobcat in school history to record double-digit goals and assists in a single season. His best stretch came during Cal Pac play, when he scored a goal in six straight games, including a hat trick on October 27 against Cal Maritime.

DeCouto also had a pair of assists in that game and anchored his team to their fifth win in a row. The All-Conference First Team member also scored a pair of game-winning goals, including a highlight reel goal against La Sierra.


* UC Merced Athletics Intern Aaron Laflin contributed to this report.

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