Since his freshman year when he stepped foot on the pitch for the first time, Turlock High's Marcus Decouto looked destined to be the next student-athlete from his school to move on to play a sport at the collegiate level.
That destiny became a reality on Monday afternoon from the Bulldog gym where Decouto signed his National Letter of Intent to pursue a childhood dream and play college soccer at University of California, Merced.
“UC Merced kinda wanted me since I started playing soccer, I have known the coach, great guy, and good program,” said Decouto. “Just looking forward to working hard and should be, hopefully four good years out there.”
“From day one when we saw him, we knew he was the type of player that could play in college because he is that good and I am very excited to watch him progress,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “Sky's the limit for him, really excited to see because he is the type of guy that will only work harder.”
Decouto had multiple options open up to him, but in the end there was no place that felt more at home to him than UC Merced.
“There were definitely other colleges who were interested but it’s tough deciding where you will spend the next four years of your life,” said Decouto. “I am happy where I ended up, feels like family. The guys out there are great, they make me feel like part of the family not just a team.”
Decouto also explained that it was more than just the atmosphere, it was how excited the school and program was to host Decouto on his official visit.
“It was little things, first day I showed up, reserved parking spot, water bottle with my name on it, just little things that made me feel at home,” said Decouto.
All this made it easy the 2016-17 Central California Conference Player of the Year to choose UC Merced and the Bobcats team.
In four years, Decouto started and played in 100 out of 102 games for the Turlock Bulldogs. Those two misses were due to the red card suspension of two games in the CCC, a new rule implemented during the 2016-17 season.
Turlock struggled through three losing seasons in Decouto's first three years but finally broke the slump, earning the Central California Conference title this past season after tallying a league record of 7-3-2 and winning their first league title since 2012 while amassing a record of 17-8-2.
The 'Dogs made a semifinal run in the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament after ousting No. 6 Davis in the opening round as a No. 11 seed.
Turlock then notched a win over No. 14 Edison in the quarterfinal round and earned a spot in the semifinal contest where they unfortunately fell to No. 2 Jesuit.
“I think everyone started buying into it and we started to play, it was a family, we treated each other like family rather than teammates and it made a big difference,” said Decouto. “Coach Sperry has been tremendous; he has been great on and off the field.”
Decouto was the focal point in the center of the pitch as a true center midfielder.
In 10 league games, Decouto led the way with 8 goals and 9 assists. He also added a pair of goals and an assist in three games leading the way to the semifinal game.
In addition, Decouto was selected as the Journal's 2016-17 Player of the Year.
“He is a unique player and his high school experience has been pretty unique as well,” said Sperry. “It's not common to get a player of his caliber that is so dedicated to his high school team, for all four years, does so well, on the field, off it, in the classroom. His family is super supportive and it’s rare; we are lucky to have had him here, he really helped the program and his peers grow as well.”
“Definitely have to thank my mom and dad and assistant Sway and guys from my childhood,” Decouto added. “Coach Brasil and Robinson, they helped me throughout my life since I have been playing and Benny Mejia and there have been so many coaches and figures that helped me get where I am.”