The Napa Soccer Academy’s under-23 team recently captured the Northern California La Liga championship, going 5-0-1 and outscoring opponents by a combined 23-3.
Having formed the team to allow those looking to play in college to stay game-ready, the NSA turned to a familiar face to coach it – former Vintage High School standout and longtime Crushers head coach Bernie Ochoa.
Ochoa’s Vintage boys and girls teams won numerous Monticello Empire League titles, and he also guided a boys club team to a national title. He was selected not only for his coaching accomplishments but for his player pedigree and knowledge from playing in college and professionally.
Expanding his roster to add some players from his United Premier Soccer League team, Napa Sporting SC, Ochoa also added six U19 NSA players to give them the experience that could push them to higher levels – Carlos Ayala Jr., Elias Garcia, Oscar Loyola, Erick Cid Sanchez, Erik Vargas and Juan Carlos Zepeda.
“The original idea was to have the boys play sparingly throughout the season,” said team manager Carlos Ayala Sr. “But what these boys did was history making.”
Not only did they all play in every game, they also started at some point in most of the matches.
Goalkeeper Ayala Jr. recorded four shutouts and conceded only three goals, along with defender Garcia. Vargas, Zepeda and Sanchez were familiar fixtures in Ochoa’s midfield and combined for four goals and 15 assists.
Loyola – who led Vintage High in scoring the last two seasons and earned Napa County Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors both years – led the NSA squad with six goals continued to be the offensive force that propelled the squad.
With the UPSL season fast approaching for the Napa Sporting SC players, Ochoa is not opposed to continuing to play the youngsters against the league’s semi-pro talent to get ready for National Premier League action.
“My idea was to continue to help form players and give them that competitive edge, so when their NPL season starts, they’ll be at the top of their games,” said Ochoa. “The boys played versus some serious players. (Redwood City’s) JASA, for example fields six Stanford University-rostered players, and I was able to give them that playing experience.
“It was a great season, better than any of us expected.”