October 27, 2006

On the Marq: Palo Alto native now a top- notch defender for Santa Clara

Oct. 27, 2006

Originally published in Palo Alto Daily News.

By Travis Perkins

Matt Marquess didn't score for the Broncos' soccer team in 2005. In fact, he only took four shots on goal.

He hasn't scored a goal for Broncos in 2006, either. But goals mean little, if anything to Marquess. He is a defender. His role is to prevent shots, not take them.

"No, I don't care about goals. We pride ourselves on shutouts and limiting shots on goal," Marquess said. "That's our responsibility so we definitely pride ourselves on those numbers."

Marquess has contributed to six shutouts this season. That's halfway to last year's mark of 12 - second most in school history. The Broncos also hold a solid 9-3-4 record, which has the team sitting comfortably on top of the West Coast Conference.

And there is one goal Marquess would like to bag before the end of his junior year.

"Right now we want to win conference," the 20-year-old said. "And if we could obtain that goal, we could obtain a good seat in St. Louis."

And Santa Clara University, with the help of Marquess on defense, appears to be on its way to St. Louis (Soccer City USA), where the NCAA-Division I Tournament, also known as the College Cup, will be held in December.

However, although the team is ranked 10th in the country by Soccer America, Marquess shouldn't book a flight yet.

"We still have a few more games that we need to win," Santa Clara University head coach Cameron Rast said. "We haven't qualified for anything yet." Marquess was on the same page.

"We can't do anything until we win conference," the junior defender said. "That's first."

After his family left Illinois, Marquess was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1986. He didn't arrive in Palo Alto until 1989. His father, Jack, who was working as a salesman, had decided to move the family to the Bay Area after spending three years in Florida.

"Growing up here, I played a bunch of different sports," said Marquess, who played basketball, baseball and hockey - as a defender - before entering Gunn High. "But I couldn't play basketball anymore because it was the same season as soccer."

At Gunn, Marquess made sure his presence was felt on the field, leading the Titans to two Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza titles and capturing the 2003 CCS Division 1 Championship. After graduating in 2004, he left Palo Alto to play at UC Santa Cruz.

"I enjoyed my time there," Marquess said. "We had a good team and did well." As a freshman, he took the Banana Slugs to a Division III Championship game, scored two

goals, had three assists and was showered with two honors -Freshman of the Year Division III Independents and first-team All-Tournament for the NCAA D-III Tournament.

Still, Marquess was not satisfied at Santa Cruz.

"The local competition wasn't very good, and I wanted a tougher experience," Marquess said. "So I started looking at other schools. I preferred a private school."

He didn't have to look far. A D-1 school that fit the bill was right up the freeway - Santa Clara University. Rast was happy to learn of Marquess' possible arrival.

"He was somebody we looked at when he was in high school," Rast said. "We knew that we wanted him. We would have liked to have had him earlier."

At Santa Clara University, Marquess made up for lost time. Last year, he appeared in all 22 games, starting the last 16 of the season, and so far in 2006, he has not missed a game.

"Anytime someone plays in 38-straight games that's impressive," said Rast, a fourth-year coach at SCU.

Sports Information Director Jed Metee agreed.

"He is pretty valuable," Mettee said. "Stats don't really do him justice."

In fact, according to Marquess, it's the lack of soccer statistics that hinders his sport in the States.

"Here we are driven by numbers," Marquess said. "There are sects that really enjoy soccer, but the majority doesn't understand the game. When there are no stats involved, it's hard."

Regardless, Marquess plans to press on.

"I am going to play as long as I can," he said.

And he still has one more year at SCU.