Laguna Hills native Kiera Bocchino ended her junior season last fall on a high, being named Offensive MVP of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament after helping the UC San Diego women's soccer team to a record ninth conference championship. The hard-charging 5-foot-7 midfielder/forward scored a pair of goals in the Tritons' dominating semifinal win over Sonoma State and added another in UCSD's 2-1 loss to Seattle Pacific in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. Head coach Brian McManus is hoping for that same kind of production from Bocchino in her senior campaign. "I expect a lot from Kiera this season," says McManus. "She got some valuable experience at the semi-pro level this past summer (San Diego SeaLions), and is coming in with a lot of confidence. She's improved at getting into the box and getting into goal-scoring situations, which could lead to increased scoring." Bocchino recently shared her thoughts on a number of topics, including last year's championship run, the disappointment of an early NCAA loss, and some of her favorite spots in San Diego.
Q: In three prior seasons at UC San Diego, you've logged significant time at both outside midfield and forward. What do you like about each, and which is your preferred position?
BOCCHINO: I have really come to love both positions. I started out as a forward, having never played outside mid until college. So initially, I definitely favored my more comfortable position as forward. Having the creative freedom up top and being the one that needs to get the goals is something I've always enjoyed. However, as I understood our system more, I have come to love outside mid as maybe my favorite position for this team! (I never thought I'd say that.)
But the way our formation works best is by really utilizing the outside mids as a big part of the attack. It's almost like playing a forward on the outside, so I get to dribble down the line, set up crosses or take shots, and be on the receiving end of crosses with opportunities at goal. And of course, getting back on defense and making sure the other team doesn't see our goal is another big job of an outside mid. It's fun to be able to cover the whole field; it's definitely very tiring, but totally worth it!
Q: How did the 2015 team go from splitting its first four conference games at home, to winning the CCAA Tournament in dominating fashion?
BOCCHINO: Unlike this year where we are returning 10 of our 11 starting players, last year it took us a bit to find our stride. We had a lot of injuries in our lineup at the start of last year and we needed to figure out how everyone played. But once we found our groove, we started playing together as a seamless unit. We really started to understand each other and became a very well-rounded team, comfortable on the attack and defense. We are only looking to build on the way we ended our last season, with confidence and composure!
Q: How satisfying was it to win the CCAA title after failing to make the field and then losing in the first round the previous two years?
BOCCHINO: Oh, it was an amazing feeling! It was definitely one of our team goals to finally get another conference title. We knew we had it in us, and we just had to go and prove it! It had been a few years since our team had the CCAA title, and we knew we had to get back to our way of doing things--WINNING!
Q: The CCAA crown sent UCSD to a first-round NCAA matchup against Seattle Pacific on a cold, rainy, windy night in Bellingham, Wash. What are your strongest memories of that game?
BOCCHINO: Oh boy, that game brings back a lot of memories--some unwanted, but some cherished. I remember Seattle's first goal went in purely from the strong winds off of a corner kick, which was hard, but all part of the game. Our team really worked together to try to battle the weather, which was something we had never encountered, and I ended up getting a goal, so I remember our camaraderie trying to get the win. But mainly, I remember our team being drenched and cold, and hugging senior Kelcie Brodsky after the game as it was her last time playing as a Triton. Brings back a sour taste and I'm ready to finish what we started.
Q: Did that actually feel like an NCAA playoff contest?
BOCCHINO: Yes and no. Our team went into the game treating it as the most important match ever, knowing we needed to win. But as you can imagine, the conditions were not ideal and it was hard to play our game. We are just itching to kill it in preseason this year and gain the opportunity to host regionals so the weather won't be any question and we can go play our game!
Q: Your coach, Brian McManus, is starting his 30th season at UC San Diego. How does he stay relevant with the younger players?
BOCCHINO: Brian is a goof! He's a tough coach and keeps us in check as he knows how to get the job done, but he is a kid at heart and jokes around with us at the right time and place. He keeps a good balance and I think we all understand each other and have fun!
Q: What do you remember from your first experience with Brian? How, if at all, has that relationship changed?
BOCCHINO: I remember Brian's accent was super thick which took some getting used to, and the fact that he was my first coach that always wore sandals was definitely a surprise. But now I can decipher his lingo and am thrown off if he wears closed-toed shoes. Brian has always been very open and willing to help me with anything I need!
Q: What do you like best and least about playing soccer?
BOCCHINO: Soccer has so many plusses in my life, so I'm so happy I get the opportunity to play this fifth year. I love the bond I've gained with my teammates, the discipline soccer has taught me, and I have a passion for the game. I get to do what I love so that's the best part. Soccer keeps me fit, which is a huge plus, but the minus is all of the running to get and stay fit.
Q: What would you consider your second-best sport? Which sport is the most difficult for you?
BOCCHINO: I played lacrosse for a few years in high school with my soccer teammates and it was pretty fun. I'd probably consider that my next best sport because I did pretty well with it. I ended up being captain and first-team all-league, and our leading goal-scorer. I am not very good at golf. I've been to golf courses once or twice and I have no idea what I'm doing. I choose soccer golf instead!
Q: Did you watch the recent Olympic Games from Rio? If so, what was your favorite moment?
BOCCHINO: Yeah, the Olympics are so much fun to watch! I'd say that our gymnastics team, specifically Simone Biles being the first U.S. woman to win the gold on vault was the best moment! She totally crushed the Olympics and even had a move on floor named after her. It's crazy to be such a standout when competing with the best in the world.
Q: You're a human development major at UCSD with a career goal of becoming a teacher. What's the toughest class you've taken at UCSD, and which was your most interesting class?
BOCCHINO: HDP191 with Professor Clarissa Reese was definitely my toughest class here at UCSD. It was my field research course for my major and was very extensive. It just required a lot of time, research, and work, but was super rewarding in the end and Professor Reese is amazing.
My most interesting class was EDS129A with Professor Rachel Millstone. It was my intro to education course and was the first time I went into the classroom as an apprentice teacher and started my journey to becoming a teacher. Professor Millstone is the best teacher I've ever had; she's super personable and creative and really knew how to relate to us. She is a very inspiring role model for future teachers!
Q: Surfing is one of your hobbies. What are your favorite San Diego surf spots?
BOCCHINO: La Jolla is such a beautiful place to surf! It's super convenient to head down to Scripps or Shores and surf with my teammates right off campus. The water is always so beautiful.
Q: You also like "going on adventures." What's the craziest "adventure" you've ever been on?
BOCCHINO: Well, my first time out of the country was actually with members of this UCSD team my freshman year to Barcelona. We explored the city and played a few teams over there and it was a super fun adventure venturing around the city with my teammates.
Q: What are your "go-to" food spots on and off campus?
BOCCHINO: Our campus has some pretty good gems. Sushi and Thai food are a few of my favorites so Shogun and Hi-Thai on campus are pretty delicious. Santorini is also one of my favorite spots for some mid-day lunch on campus, with some boba from Tap Ex on the side.
Off-campus food has no limits so that's hard. I'll stick to sushi because that's my favorite, so Sushi Ki is close and convenient, but Sushi Freaks has the famous sushirrito, which if you haven't had one, you should head down there and try it. (It's a sushi burrito)!
Q: So far, what do you like best about the 2016 Triton women's soccer team, and what do you think this squad is capable of?
BOCCHINO: So far, I like how strong our team chemistry is. Returning so many players really continued our stride from last year, and shows the new players what we are all about. I think our team is capable of going all the way to the national championship as long as we keep our focus and stay confident, not cocky!
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Nick Alexander (Men's Water Polo) August 23, 2016
Karina Carstens (Women's Cross Country) August 8, 2016
Amanda Colla (Women's Volleyball) July 22, 2016
Palano Twins (Men's Soccer) July 13, 2016
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