Kianah Motosono has traveled the world. Between trips with her parents to tennis matches in Europe, she’s visited nearly 30 countries.
“Love Japan — it’s just so interesting,” Motosono said. “Everything over there. It’s a whole different world. I really loved England. I never thought I would like English food. But it surprised me. And then just I’m a big-city person coming from Miami. London is beautiful. Italy, France. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to travel a lot. Tennis has been a big part of why I’ve been able to travel.”
A world traveler and self-described foodie, Motosono has been able to visit countries and embrace various cultures. After graduating from Oklahoma in December with a double major in international business and economics, Motosono wanted to get back closer to home and is pursuing an MBA while playing tennis at Florida State.
After high school graduation in Miami, there was a desire to leave the state and she had hopes of building Oklahoma’s tennis program. But there was a lure to come back to the Sunshine State and to reconnect with a program that recruited her years earlier.
“I was being recruited by Florida State the first time around,” Motosono said. “But then again, I was like, no, no, no more Florida. And then the second time around I said, ‘You know what? I think it’s time to go back home. I’ve been away for too long.’ I love outdoor tennis. Oklahoma has a lot of indoor tennis. I love the heat. I think that’s where I play my best tennis. I was definitely looking for somewhere I would get that heat. I already knew a little bit about them from years back and what they’ve built here the past few years, and the name that they’ve made for themselves is just incredible. It was like a dream come true.”
Motosono enrolled at FSU in January and jumped right into the spring season. She’s 10-10 overall this season, including a 6-5 mark at the No. 5 singles spot. FSU will open the NCAA Tournament against Florida International in a regional at Gainesville on Saturday at 11 a.m. While her backhand has been a weakness, Motosono leans on a strong forehand and endurance to wear down opponents.
“My forehand is a strength, that’s how I win most of my points. I can build the point to be able to win the point,” Motosono said. “I feel like my mentality is a big part of it too. I know it’s going to be a battle every time I step on court, but I’m mentally prepared to be there for however long it takes — two, three, four hours. I know I am capable of being there for that long and I like to break down my opponent mentally. So I think that’s what drives me to win.”
Motosono has time to improve next season, too. She will use the added year of eligibility from the COVID season to wrap up the two-year MBA program in 2023. And she will have time to also pursue her love of food and travel. Motosono jokes that her sibling is her parents’ Miami restaurant, Shibui, which blends the heritage of her mom, Akiko, and her dad, Antonio.
“My mom is half-Japanese, half-Colombian,” Motosono said. “And my dad was born and raised in Peru, but he’s third-generation Japanese. Quite a mix there. They incorporate a lot of Peruvian or Latin flavors into their foods, so it’s a Japanese-Peruvian fusion. Which is really cool. It’s really interesting.”
Motosono lists Sakura and Royal Thai among her favorite Tallahassee restaurants. She’s tried a range of culinary options, recalling a trip to Japan when she was little and they served live octopus. “Tentacles are still moving,” Motosono said. “You have to chew it really, really fast.”
While looking forward to tennis this weekend, Motosono also fondly remembers dinners out with her family in Miami and the plentiful options that will again await this summer.
“I love going out with my parents to eat because they will order everything,” Motosono said. “And it’s not just because my mom went to culinary school, but because food has always been such a big part of our lives with the restaurant. So they also want to try new things to see what they can incorporate into the restaurant. That’s why food is so important to me and so important to my family. It’s all we know, it’s our way of life.”