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Santa Ynez seniors sign: Henry Allen will stay close for water polo while Nico Rocha is off to Europe for soccer
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Santa Ynez seniors sign: Henry Allen will stay close for water polo while Nico Rocha is off to Europe for soccer

Nico Rocha will leave the country to continue his athletic career. Henry Allen will likely not leave the county to continue his.

Though he is technically on the wait list at UCLA, Allen signed with UC Santa Barbara to play water polo.

Rocha signed with ETURE Sports to try his hand (feet?) at professional soccer in Spain.

The Santa Ynez High School seniors signed at an outdoor, social distancing-regulated ceremony at the school Friday.

Rocha and Allen were the Santa Ynez nominees for the 2020 Northern Santa Barbara County Round Table Male Athlete and Male Scholar Athlete scholarships respectively.

The NSBCART customarily awards its scholarships at its annual awards dinner. The organization cancelled its 2020 dinner because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rocha, a four-year varsity defensive midfielder, loves the sport of soccer. He also fell in love with Spain on a trip there last summer, so he figured going with ETURE Sports was the thing for him.

“I have family in Taragona, which is just outside Barcelona and about an hour and a half from Valencia,” where ETURE sports is located, said Rocha.

Rocha will report to ETURE Sports on Aug. 10.

“You show for different pro teams there, and you go to the one which shows interest in you,” said Rocha.

“You’ll play for 10 months. If you’re good enough, you’ll stay with your team. If not, you’ll go back to the states and probably play with an NCAA Division 1 team.”

That’s a good deal all around, Rocha figured.

Meanwhile, Allen, a prolific scorer as an attacker for coach Jake Kalkowski’s Santa Ynez water polo squad, figured UC Santa Barbara would be a good deal all around for him.

“It’s best for my major, mechanical engineering,” said Allen. He carries a 4.87 GPA at Santa Ynez.

Besides, “For location, being close to family, you can’t beat it.”

Allen was also considering Princeton, but ruled out the Ivy League school earlier in his decision making progress.

Both seniors are aware of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic when it comes to sports, but both seemed upbeat.

“They are (on the other side of the mountain) with the pandemic in Spain,” said Rocha.

“I’m a little nervous, but nothing will happen (as far as the sport resuming) without La Liga’s go-ahead.”

There has been some debate among La Liga players and officials about the wisdom of pushing ahead at this time but, according to reports, most of the players are inclined to go ahead.

Besides, “La Liga is due to start games in August. Bundesliga in Germany is already starting up, so we’ll be able to keep an eye on them.”

At press time, Bundesliga was set to resume games on Saturday, in empty stadiums.

Water polo is a fall sport in the NCAA, and it was announced Tuesday that many UC campuses will likely stay with online classes in the fall.

However, “I know that at this time UC Santa Barbara was planning to open up,” said Allen.

“It’s May. They have some time to figure it out.”

Allen said he will live on campus at UC Santa Barbara. Rocha said he will live on the Valencia College campus, with other athletes in the ETURE program.

In this era of no team workouts, Rocha said he has been training on his own each weekday.

“I’ve been focusing on building power in the legs, ballwork, cardio,” he said.

With public pools closed, workouts have been a challenge for aquatics athletes.

“I’ve gotten in a friend’s pool to swim a couple of times, but it’s mostly been training on dry land,” said Allen.

Rocha is looking forward to majoring in soccer in Spain.

“There are no NCAA regulations over there, so you can play soccer seven days a week,” said Rocha.

At the signing, Santa Ynez athletic director Ashley Coelho gave the two their senior school Athlete and Scholar Athlete of the Year awards, a patch to both of them and a lifetime pass to all Santa Ynez home games, including the post-season ones.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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