Paul Marcoux is the leader of one of UC Davis’ most recognized athletic teams.
The captain paces an Aggies men’s soccer team that has been in the NCAA Tournament in each of its first two seasons of Division I eligibility.
This year’s team, however, is in many ways under construction. As one of the team’s three seniors, Marcoux has played an important role in helping the younger players both on the pitch and off.
On the field this year, the Mountain View, Calif. native has reaped the rewards for all his hard work. He leads the team in scoring (five goals, 12 points) and shots on goal (10).
As the team tries to regain momentum and make a push for the Big West Conference Tournament and beyond, Marcoux sat down with Aggie Associate Sports Editor John S. Heller to discuss pre-game rituals, the rivalry with UC Santa Barbara and some of his fonder memories at UC Davis.
What is your best moment as an Aggie so far?
The best moment I would say was going to the tournament two years ago in the first year we were eligible. I still remember that all of us went to The Graduate because they had the selection show on. When our name popped up, it went crazy in there. That’s definitely my best soccer moment. You can’t really top that feeling.
Where is the team going this year and beyond?
People are calling this a rebuilding year because we’re so young. It’s about just getting everyone experience and having fun while doing it. We’re doing well in conference and we haven’t completely taken ourselves out of it. We haven’t played [UC] Santa Barbara yet, a team that some people expect to win the conference. We already got a big win at [UC] Irvine.
How does being the team captain change how you practice and how you prepare?
Last year we had nine seniors and this year we have three so some guys are still trying to figure out the whole college life thing. Obviously, the freshmen are a little overwhelmed right now and kind of need someone to look to for school help – girl help as well. If coach gets on someone pretty hard, we try to talk to him and help him.
How is playing on the road different from playing at home?
I think it’s a huge deal. The whole demeanor of the fans is completely different than Davis. At other schools they will find any kind of piece of information on you and ream you for it. In Santa Barbara, they throw tortillas at you.
Speaking of Santa Barbara, you’ve had some intense matches with them over the past few years. Would you say that UCSB is your biggest rival?
Yeah, I would definitely say that based on the games we’ve had the last four years with them. We split the series four years ago when they won the national championship. Last year, the game at their place was the craziest game I’ve ever been involved in. We pretty much had a brawl on the field in front of six or seven thousand fans.
Do you have a pregame ritual that you do before every match?
I wouldn’t say it’s a pregame ritual, but I’ve worn a Livestrong bracelet for six years now because of a coach I had in high school. I wear it through warm up but I’m not allowed to wear it during the game. Sometimes I’ll hold it in my hand for a second and use that time to gather myself.
You guys play a pretty crazy schedule. How do you train to be able to play two games per week all over the state of California?
It’s difficult. You just try to get your body ready as much as you can. A big thing I absolutely hate – something all the trainers and coaches love to make us do – is taking ice baths. I’m sure anybody on the team would tell you that I hate doing it, but it does make you feel good.
How has your upbringing in Mountain View prepared you for life as a collegiate athlete?
My parents have always been huge fans and my dad was always the manager of my club teams growing up. Both of my parents come to all of our games. Having them there with all their support has made a huge difference for me.
As an experience, what has college soccer been like for you?
It’s been a great experience. I couldn’t imagine not playing. I’m actually very fortunate to be playing at all. My freshman year I was the last pick on the team. It’s been an unreal experience so far. I love soccer and I love playing here. I still get phone calls after games from former players asking what happened in the game and how I played. It’s like a family.
JOHN HELLER can be reached at email@example.com.