By Jean DePlacido
---- — Just because he didn’t play for his high school team didn’t mean that Henry Balf wasn’t getting noticed by Division 1 college soccer programs.
The standout from Beverly has flown under the radar locally, but has made his presence known with outstanding play against elite competition with the US Development Academy soccer program, which he’s done since his sophomore year. Now, The Waring School senior has committed to play at Boston College.
Balf had an outstanding showcase tournament in Florida recently and his performance attracted a lot of attention from the University of Michigan. He was also highly recruited by Holy Cross, Providence and Northeastern before deciding on The Heights.
“I wanted to play at the highest level I could, and the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) in particular is the tops collegiately in the country,” said Balf, a center midfielder. “The recruiting process happened rather late for me as far as the bigger schools were concerned, but I had a very good end of last season and strong beginning this year, which certainly helped.
“For me one of the big factors in the final decision was the fact that academically BC is a great school. Coming from a difficult academic school like Waring, it played a big role in my choice and as far as soccer goes I was looking for the challenge of playing in a very strong league (and) I also wanted to stay local, so it was a very good fit all around.”
Balf has been playing soccer since he was four or five, starting in Beverly Youth Soccer before moving to the North Shore United club program when he was eight.
“That was where my passion for the game was stoked by Stefano Franciosa (NSU founder and president) and coach Norman James. We were very successful and won four state cups,” said Balf.
Balf captained North Shore United for four years. He also played varsity soccer at Waring (a private school in Beverly) starting when he was in the eighth grade through his sophomore year. In 2011 he was named league MVP and led his team in scoring with 14 goals and 10 assists.
He began playing US Soccer Development Academy, the top tier of youth soccer in this country, in 2011 for FC Bolts Celtic out of Newton. Balf is now on the U17-18 team.
“The Development Academy League has 10-12 teams from Montreal down to New York, and we play each team twice a year between fall and spring seasons. It’s highly competitive,” said Balf.
“I played for Waring from eighth grade through my sophomore year before having to choose between my high school team and academy. It was a difficult decision for me, but I thought in order to be the best player I could be the best solution for me was academy. I have a great relation with my (Waring) coach Westy Adams and athletic director Mike Kersker. They were very helpful in my decision making.”
Balf and other top players had to make the choice after a new rule was put in place by US Soccer two years ago, prohibiting their players from also being on a high school soccer team.
He still plays basketball for Waring and is a contributor to Gadfly, the school newspaper. Balf is an excellent student, ranked in the top 10 percent nationally in the Grand Concours French Contest.
“We take French class every day at Waring,” said Balf. “I think knowing a language gives me some good options if I decide to go into international business. Once you learn a language it’s much easier to pick up others.
“I don’t know what I want to major in yet, but I’m very happy to know where I’ll be playing and studying. I’ll play for the Bolts in the spring, and I’m sure I’ll be getting a conditioning program from BC to follow this summer.”