First-year men's soccer head coach Jon Pascale has led the Tritons through a rigorous training camp and the squad is ready to start the 2008 season, which begins at home on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. against Hawaii-Hilo. Leading a stellar UCSD defense is senior goalkeeper Peter Akman, who played abroad in high school and transferred from Mesa Community College before last season. As a junior in 2007, Akman started 15 of UCSD’s 17 games. “Peter is a high-level goalkeeper,” Pascale said, “who is going to play a major role in the success of the team this year. So far he has been working hard and looking very sharp in training.” Akman took time away from his busy preseason schedule to talk about the upcoming season, his experiences playing soccer around the globe and what his future entails.
Q – Having grown up in Tampa, Florida and attended high school in Turkey, how did you end up out West at UC San Diego?
Akman - First of all I should probably start with how I got to Turkey in the first place. I went over to Turkey to play for a top club team and they had a high school I attended. It was really great because I got a chance to travel all over Europe during that time. Going to high school over there was interesting though because I didn’t speak any Turkish. I ended up transferring clubs my last year and moved to England. After I finished I had some offers to play professionally but I decided I wanted to get my education first. I came back to the U.S. and was interested in biology and engineering, so bioengineering seemed like the logical choice. Obviously UCSD is the best in that field and I even came to the university as a kid for summer camp and I love San Diego, so it was an easy choice.
Q – In what ways has playing soccer in those different places helped you become a student-athlete?
Akman – As a student-athlete I got a great experience in a high-disciplined environment. All athletes here at UCSD could really relate to it because the academics and athletics are so competitive.
Q – Where would you rather spend a week of summer vacation time: Southern California or South Florida?
Akman – I guess the way I can answer this, is with a question: Do you like big sharks or small sharks?
Q – What are your first impressions of first-year head coach Jon Pascale and the new staff he has formed to lead the Tritons?
Akman – It’s far exceeding any expectations I could have had. They’ve just been fantastic and have brought the best out of our team. They’ve not only already helped our team on the field but off the field as well. All the assistant coaches are bringing real playing experience to the table as well. With those coaches I can definitely see that UCSD will continue its path as being one of the top athletic programs.
Q – The goalkeeper coach on staff, Greg LaPorte, has played in Europe and South America. How has it been to have him on board?
Akman – Our new goalkeeper coach has really changed and improved how we can train. Last year we didn’t really have a coach so we kind of had to train ourselves. It’s really funny too because he’s played in a few of the same places I have. It’s great to be able to relate to the training environments we’ve been through and also the different training styles.
Q – The UCSD team has decided to keep four goalkeepers on the roster. What was the competition like in training camp?
Akman – It’s been great. We have some great players at the position. They all work extremely hard and they’re great team players. Both the field players and the keepers have been training at a very high level.
Q – Pitchers in baseball, goalkeepers in hockey...do goalies in soccer deserve an “odd-ball” stereotype as well?
Akman – I guess they always say ‘Oh, you’re a goalkeeper, you’re crazy,’ but we always respond with ‘You guys are running all day so you must be the crazy ones.’ So maybe we’re the smart ones. Goalkeepers have to be different – we don’t get much credit and we work just as hard.
Q – Do you have any pregame rituals or interesting superstitions?
Akman – I have had quite a few but they really change with the time. It’s been different things like not cleaning my gloves if I’m playing well or wearing the same jersey.
Q – Which game this season are you looking forward to most?
Akman – A national championship game. Our team is looking very strong at the start and I’m hoping we get there.
Q – With the CCAA schedule lining up so that men’s and women’s soccer teams travel together and play doubleheaders, you get to see a lot of Brian McManus’ squad. Who is your favorite to watch on the women’s squad?
Akman – Coach McManus has always had a great squad. Last year they had an awesome team but had some bad luck in getting plagued by injuries. I can’t really pick a certain team member just because they all play so well together. I’m sure with all his recruits this year there will be a lot more stars.
Q – Academically and athletically, what was the transition like going from Mesa Community College to UCSD before the 2007 season?
Akman – I am really proud to say I was a community college student. It was unfortunate that when I came over from Turkey they didn’t accept my high school degree so instead I had to get a GED. Eventually I transferred over to UCSD and it shows that even with a GED I could get into the bioengineering program. Mesa prepared me very, very well for a strong academic university such as UCSD.
Q – What are your plans for after graduation?
Akman – I’m working right now and I also found out that I’ve been accepted into the master’s program here for bioengineering. So there’s actually a possibility of playing another year as a post-graduate student. It’s not a definite but I could see it happening.
Previous Q&A Articles:
Jake LaVieux (Men's Cross Country) August 8, 2008
Dr. Penny Rue (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) July 30, 2008
Michelle Torres (Women's Volleyball) July 15, 2008
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer Head Coach) July 1, 2008
Julie Ertel (Athletics) June 16, 2008
Clint Allard (Men's Basketball) June 9, 2008