On Sunday, Aug. 28, Cal Poly women’s soccer faced off against Sacramento State. The Mustangs came out on top 1-0, despite star forward Nikki Trucco surprisingly playing just 28 minutes before exiting. After leaving that game early, she made the decision to leave the team.
“It’s just weird… I’ve played soccer my entire life, [and suddenly] I’m not playing anymore.”
That’s the response that Trucco, former Cal Poly women’s soccer forward, gave when asked what it’s like not playing for the team – her team – in what would have been her final season in the Green and Gold.
“I’d see all the girls literally every part of every day,” Trucco said. “So that’s probably one of the biggest adjustments, is not having that.”
And yet, it was an adjustment she had been preparing to make for a while.
“I’ve already graduated. I was just gonna be doing some pre-reqs this quarter… and I actually already had a job lined up here too, so that was a big reason why I decided to leave,” Trucco said.
However, there is a second, more unfortunate reason for her rather under-the-radar departure from the pitch: injuries.
“It’s not a specific diagnosis, but I’ve been dealing with knee problems for a good amount of time,” Trucco said. “And I’d say it started getting [worse] during the spring season.”
Despite resting over the summer and subsequently starting up physical therapy in the hopes of enjoying her final season with the Mustangs, it wasn’t meant to be.
“As [this] season progressed and I kept playing games, they would just bother me more and more…. [I think] they were just giving out on me,” Trucco said. “It was kind of getting to the point where they were just getting progressively worse every game.”
So, after playing just four games this season, Trucco quietly hung up her spikes for the final time and moved on to pursuing her teaching degree. She didn’t leave without saying goodbye in trademark clutch fashion, however.
Before she left, she was able to score one goal – the game winner – on August 25 against the Minnesota Gophers. It was the fifth and final game-winning goal of her career.
It was a career to be proud of. Trucco’s three years as a Mustang resulted in 14 goals, including 10 last season, good for 12th all-time in single-season school history, and 31 total points while averaging nearly 65 minutes per game across her three seasons.
Along with tying the program record for fastest goal scored last year – 30 seconds into the game, against UC San Diego – she also was the recipient of numerous awards. In her freshman year, she was named to the Big West Conference All-Freshman Team alongside teammate Camille Lafaix, and earned an All-Big West honorable mention.
Her second season was even more honor-worthy, as it earned her Big West Player of the Week (Oct. 11), an NSCAA/United Soccer Coaches All-West Region (Second Team) selection and All-Big West Second Team honors. She also received recognition that season for her academics, earning Big West Conference All-Academic Team honors and being named the Big West Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year (female) for Cal Poly.
Trucco rarely paid attention to any of the awards she won, though.
“I mean, obviously it’s nice to get awards, but for me…I like to just have fun, give it my best shot and any accolades that I got were more than I could have ever expected,” Trucco said.
Instead, she was always a team-first player, which helped the Mustangs capture their first Big West regular season title in eight years. They had to share that title with UC Irvine however, much to Trucco’s chagrin.
“The biggest regret that I have? Well, I don’t know if [we] could have [actually] changed the outcome of this, but losing the Irvine game,” Trucco said. “Obviously, it was a really cool opportunity to tie for [Big West] champions, but being the only champ would’ve been ideal.”
But, for the former #6, all that’s left to do is move forward.
“I really want to get my Master’s and my credential together, and Cal Poly’s credential program is only your credential,” Trucco said. “So I’m still looking into that right now. But anywhere I go, obviously I’m not playing soccer.”
While she does love the time she spent on the team, she did admit that she doesn’t actually follow them that much anymore.
“Since leaving, not really, because I moved back home [to the Bay Area]… I’m still in contact with some of the girls…but I’m not super involved,” Trucco said. “I do follow all the accounts, so I do see the updates. I actually have a twin sister, Lexi, who plays at UC Davis, so the games are at the same time. So, I kind of have family obligations to watch her games.”
Despite not keeping up with the team, she remains as loyal as ever. So much is her love for the team that, when asked who she thinks are the key players for this year’s season, she genuinely responded with “the whole team.”
“We have a big freshman class, so I feel like that’s always nice [because it] opens up a lot of opportunities for the freshmen,” Trucco said. “I know [at] my position, there’s a lot of other girls in the freshman and the sophomore class…I think that’ll be nice for them to be able to step up and get that chance to play and become a core part of the team.”
She remains as modest as ever about her role over the years, saying that the team will still have the chance to repeat success this season with her absence.
“Obviously, I was only one player on the team…on the field, there’s 10 others that are still the normal starters,” Trucco said. “But I know that [there are] big leaders on the field, and I know that [they’ll] be able to help lead the team to just as much success as we had last year.”
As for what she’ll miss about playing for the Mustangs, she admitted it would be the simple aspects.
“I’ll definitely miss playing for the coaches,” Trucco said. “I really had a really good relationship with the whole coaching staff. I think we have the best stadium in the Big West…nothing compares to playing in that stadium on a Thursday night under the lights. I’ll definitely miss that.”
Even her own opinion on her career is simple: “My career at Cal Poly was more than I could’ve ever expected. Being a high schooler coming into the program, [and having] the opportunity to make such a big impact…was probably the best part of my soccer career.”
But it is perhaps the response she gives when asked for a final thought on her career that encapsulates Nikki Trucco – both the athlete and the student – best. Why? Because it’s reminiscent of the way she played on the field at Alex G. Spanos Stadium for 43 games – always looking forward, towards the goal in front of her:
“I’m really sad that it’s over, but I’m also ready to start the next chapter,” Trucco said.