Napa Valley College soccer standout Marco Manzo was full of joy and gratitude Thursday as the signed a letter of intent to make official his transfer to California State University Bakersfield, where he’ll play for the NCAA Division I Roadrunners.
“I can’t be thankful enough for all the resources and assistance I have received at NVC from my professors, counselors, coaches, and the whole athletic department,” said the 2018 Vintage High graduate, who was the Napa County Player of the Year as a junior.
The Roadrunners, who participate in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference, will welcome the attacking midfielder and communication studies major in August.
“I’m excited to plan my move and all that comes with adjusting. Time management will be key to being successful. You want to spend as much time as possible enjoying the sport you love but you must handle business first to do so.”
He thanked NVC head coach Rogelio Ochoa, the 2019 and 2021 Bay Valley Conference Coach of the Year who has guided the Storm to BVC titles in all four of his years at the helm. Manzo is the sixth signee for Ochoa, whose priority has always been seeing his players win in the classroom.
“Coach Rogelio has done a great job at being a role model for all of us and making sure we understand the importance of performance in school,” Manzo said.
Since taking the reins of the program in 2017, Ochoa has established a successful culture both on the pitch and in the classroom. His reputation for winning, getting his players signed, and the strong bond with every player he has managed are factors that have made the local institution a major option of interest for many who desire to take their academics and soccer to the next level.
“We try to teach and lead by example the importance of time management, proper communication and listening to your body and mind,” Ochoa explained. “Balance is key to any facet of life. However, when it comes to the classroom, it’s important to know yourself and know what kind of student you are. Knowing how you study best, where you struggle and your needs are in the classroom are important.
“Marco has grown dramatically. He has always had vision and goal to play D-I and beyond, so we sat down and made a plan early on. His hard work and dedication opened up opportunities to play in for a variety of colleges. He got numerous offers to play, but decided to play in a competitive conference, the Big West. This will propel him to continue growing and reach his goal of playing professionally one day.”
Manzo is accustomed to balancing his time. He is also a key player for amateur soccer club Napa Valley 1839 FC under the guidance of Mark Corbett, who is also the NVC women’s head coach.
Much like Ochoa, who was head coach of both his NVC program and 1839 FC in 2019, Corbett has had a positive impact on both of the teams he manages since his arrival in 2020. The English native has also helped establish a relationship between the junior college and the local amateur soccer club to further develop players.
“The bridge between 1839 and NVC has provided me with the opportunity to play consistent soccer at a good level throughout the whole year,” Corbett said. “But apart from that, it has helped me grow as a person and provided a feeling of being wanted.”
Manzo has a special connection to both teams.
“It is important to go somewhere where you are felt wanted and surrounded by people who want to help you reach the next level. Coach Rogelio and Coach Mark have provided me with that environment and have supported me so I could reach the next level,” Manzo said. “There are a lot of kids like me from Napa who dream of playing D-I in the NCAA, and it isn’t easy to achieve when you feel like you are running out of time or when you feel like you lack the resources.”
Throughout his time at NVC, a lack of resources was the last of worries on the mind of the former Crusher. As demonstrated by its level of student success, NVC is one of the top academic two-year colleges in California, offering more than 75 degrees and certificates designed to prepare its students to transfer to four-year institutions.
Those in athletics instantly become part of the Priority Registration Program, allowing them to select classes that fit their everyday schedules and have access to a dedicated academic counselor housed within the department. Most intriguing to a lot of students is the NVC Promise Scholarship Program, a two-year plan that pays tuition and fees for students, regardless of family income, who are full-time, first-time freshmen in their first year after high school graduation; or are full-time, second-year students who attended a California community college full-time during the previous academic year as a first-time freshman.
“There are a number of positives for attending a community college, rather than transferring to a four-year school like Marco has done,” Corbett noted. “Financially it is free for the first two years, but also there is a much greater chance of actually playing in conference games. Very few incoming freshmen are playing games in their first or second year at four-year schools. Attending a community college, you get the chance to play and develop as a player and mature as a person, which will improve the chances of scholarship offers at the next level. Those were certainly the qualities Marco displayed and why CSU Bakersfield recruited him.”
With Ochoa and Corbett leading the soccer programs at NVC, and Napa Valley 1839 FC having both men’s and women’s teams, Napa appears to be the ideal destination for any soccer player wanting to take academics and soccer seriously.
Just as he did in 2018 when graduating from Vintage High, Manzo will wrap up his educational cycle in the Napa Valley when he walks the stage at the Napa Memorial stadium to receive his associate of arts degree for Transfer in Communication Studies this May.
“Manzo’s development has been a pleasure to watch up close,” Corbett added. “His hard work and effort in every practice, plus the extras he does away from our practices, is the reason why he performs so consistently in games. He deserves all the rewards he is getting.”
Written by Daniel Morales/Napa Valley Register