Manzo, Ochoa lead NVC men's soccer team
By MARTY JAMES
Marco Manzo and Jesus "Chuy" Ochoa were teammates on the 2014 Vintage High School boys soccer team, which had a 19-1-3 record and won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title.
Manzo was a freshman and Ochoa a senior at the time.
They are teammates once again, this time for a Napa Valley College men's soccer team, which with two games still to go in the regular season, has already clinched the Bay Valley Conference title.
"They play every minute of each match, unless we're up by a couple, and then maybe we can give them a little break," Napa Valley coach Rogelio Ochoa said at Tuesday's practice. "But they're the ones that can stay on the field, again to control the tempo of the game, whether we're up or whether we're tied.
"It's just having that presence that is good to have on a team."
Manzo, a freshman, is a center attacking midfielder. Ochoa, a sophomore who played on NVC's 2016 team, is a center back-defensive midfielder.
Together, they have been key to helping the Storm (7-7-2 overall, 6-1-1 Bay Valley) surge to the top of the conference standings, with Napa Valley outscoring its opponents, 24-21. The Storm has a 6-3-1 record over its last 10 matches and takes a two-game winning streak into its next game, Friday, Nov. 8 at Mendocino of Ukiah at 3 p.m. NVC's final regular season game is Tuesday, Nov. 12 at Yuba of Marysville at 4 p.m.
Manzo said it's nostalgic being reunited with Ochoa, a team captain.
"We know each other. It's like we're doing it all over again, for the second time," said Manzo. "I feel like it's not easy to do what we do, but in a way, we're very comfortable, with what we do. We're very professional about it. When we play, we know each other, like as if it was our twin. I know what he's doing. He knows what I'm doing.
"There is a strong bond strong, a chemistry. It's very easy to play with him, from just so many years of knowing him and playing with him. We're like brothers."
Manzo and Ochoa are two of the team's stars and leaders.
Ochoa, named as the Defensive Player of the Year on the 2013 All-Napa County team, has five goals, three assists and 13 points for Napa Valley. Manzo has one assist.
"If you watch us play, we're very hungry – 100 percent of the time we're on the pitch," said Manzo. "It's kind of like a light switch that never goes off, that you always have to have on."
Vintage won all four of its playoff games during the 2014 season, beating Rocklin, 1-0, in four overtimes; Stagg of Stockton, 1-0; Atwater, 1-0; and Merced in the finals, 2-1.
The consistent, steady and overall solid play of Jesus "Chuy" Ochoa is one of the reasons why Napa Valley has been able to control the tempo of its games, said Rogelio Ochoa. He brings a presence in the midfield, the coach added. His goals have been off of corner kicks or free kicks.
"He's pretty deadly when it comes to set pieces," said Rogelio Ochoa. "He has different ways he can attack."
Manzo has more of an offensive role for the Storm, which has won its last two matches, 1-0 over Contra Costa of San Pablo and 2-1 over Merritt of Oakland.
"He's a player that will create space for you, offensively, and he's the one that's been able to help the strikers on top," said Rogelio Ochoa.
Jesus "Chuy" Ochoa is a 2014 Vintage graduate who was twice named All-Monticello Empire League.
Manzo graduated from Vintage in 2018 and was named All-MEL and All-Napa County.
This is the third straight Bay Valley title for Napa Valley, which will continue its season in the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs starting on Nov. 23.
"Winning this league early is pretty big for our program," said Manzo. "I want to leave a mark here for my town, for my team, as one of the best teams to play at this college."
Jesus "Chuy" Ochoa expressed excitement being able to play again with Manzo.
"It's cool to have that bond back. There are some days where we stay here and we take free kicks or we shoot after practice. There's not many players that want to do that, to take that extra step," he said.
Ochoa is very happy to be playing competitive soccer again after having surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2017. The recovery process took a year and Ochoa redshirted last year.
Ochoa scored a goal and had an assist and William Biondini scored a goal for Napa Valley in the match against Merritt.
A goal by Alex Cendejas, with the assist coming from Biondini, led Napa Valley in the game against Contra Costa.
"We're becoming very hard to beat, because we stay disciplined in the back and up top," said Jesus "Chuy" Ochoa. "It's really exciting because playoffs are around the corner."
Napa Valley played a very difficult nonconference schedule at the start of the season. Rogelio Ochoa said his team is understanding the momentum of the game now.
"We're able to take control of the game, the tempo, and knowing how to manage it right before or after scoring a goal. I think that's the biggest difference between the beginning of the season and now."
The Storm's goals going into the season were to win the Bay Valley title and advance to the playoffs.
"It's hard to get into playoffs and it's even harder to win games in the playoffs. We have got to stay focused and strong and be ready for whoever we have to play," said Rogelio Ochoa.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in September of 2019.