Kari Wismar moved to America from Japan when she was two months old.
The Brandeis University midfielder’s mother is both Japanese and Brazilian, while her father grew up in Rochester, New York before moving to Quincy, Massachusetts.
Growing up, she participated in activities like ballet, taekwondo, and softball. But soccer was always the sport she was hooked to since she was seven years old.
“My family would always be watching soccer since I was really little,” Wismar said. “I just always had a love for the sport from a young age.”
That love carried to Quincy High School in Massachusetts, where Wismar was a key piece of the Presidents’ varsity soccer team from the moment she was a freshman.
At the end of her junior year, she had knee surgery for dislocating her knee cap. As a result, in her senior year as a captain of the Presidents, she missed half of the season, but came back and got the game winning goal against rival North Quincy.
It was the first time in 27 years that Quincy had defeated the Red Raiders.
“That was probably one of my favorite moments in my career,” Wismar said. “It felt great, because I worked really hard to get back into shape.”
Before her heroics with Quincy High, Wismar started playing in-house for Quincy Youth Soccer when she was seven. Once she was eight, she started playing for America FC.
“That’s where I think most of my growth as an athlete stemmed from,” Wismar said. “AFC has a really great group of coaches that allow you to be the player that you want to be.”
She also played for the Quincy Travel team around that time, and when she was 14, she played for the Massachusetts Olympic Development program.
“That was great, because I got to play more with people that also wanted to play college soccer and had a similar mindset to myself,” Wismar said.
But just before that, at 12 years old, Wismar played for the boys’ team at America FC.
Conrad Whyte was the coach of that team and he had a lot of prior experience in the game as he received the golden boot in Antigua. Wismar did a lot of one-on-one training with him which improved her technical skills. Now, he is the head of the club and an assistant coach at Merrimack.
“He’s definitely a tough guy and he’s not afraid to share his opinion on how you need to improve as a player, which is what I needed,” Wismar said. “He’s definitely someone that I believe helped me get to that next level of playing.”
When she was 14, along with her time at the Olympic Development program, she played a season for Global Premier Soccer.
At 15, she started playing for NEFC. She played for them until graduating from high school. Around the same time, she played for the Rhode Island Olympic Development team.
“NEFC was the next level for me and I got to grow even more as a player and given the exposure that I wanted for college recruitment,” Wismar said. “We ended up winning the Rhode Island State Cup in 2018 and went to Colorado for the National Championship.”
After all this experience and her time at Quincy High, Wismar ended up at Brandeis University.
She first started talking to Brandeis when she was a sophomore.
“I first saw Kari play at the NEFC showcase. She reached out and I attended one of her games. During the game, I saw how creative she was and her ability to take players on,” Brandeis assistant coach Mary Shimko said. “That sparked my initial interest and then her character showed through. She came to campus and was incredibly kind and respectful and connected well with the team and coaches.”
During her visit, she got to meet most of the team and go to a couple of classes. In her senior year, she finally did an official visit.
“From there, I knew that I wanted to go to Brandeis. Seeing the amount of team chemistry they had was amazing,” Wismar said. “Brandeis is athletically and academically strong. It’s listed at the moment at #40 for top colleges. I knew that I would not be able to get another opportunity like this from any other school.”
After committing to Brandeis in her senior year of high school, Wismar joined a team that went to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament two years beforehand. Most of the players from that time were still on the team.
Despite having not recorded a goal in her first two years at Brandeis, her assistant coach sees something beyond the surface.
“She’s been working hard in the off seasons and she’s gonna find the back of the net,” Shimko said. “You’ll start to see her becoming more dangerous in front of the net which we’re really excited about.”
But the game goes beyond just stats at Brandeis. Everyone on the team is great friends and they are always going to the library together or grabbing food. They know when to joke around and have fun, but when it comes to practice and games, they all know that it is time to work.
Due to playing in one of the top leagues in D3, the UAA, they play teams like NYU, Carnegie Mellon, Wash U, Emory, Rochester, U Chicago, and Case Western. In order to get into the NCAA tournament, they essentially have to be in the top 2 or 3 of the league.
What Wismar brings to a team trying to make it to the big stage is not as simple as stats.
“She’s a silent leader who never complains or gets frustrated. She’s a super fun, down to earth, kind person,” Shimko said. “Whenever we have new players or recruits, she’s super warm and welcoming. She brings composure and calmness to the team.”
And if you bring up her dog, her face will light up.
But something else that will always make her face light up is the game of soccer.
“It has pretty much been my entire life and I believe has shaped me into the person I am now. I’ve got to meet all different kinds of people from different backgrounds and I’ve got to travel to many different places,” Wismar said. “I feel very fortunate to be in the position that I am in now and I believe that it will continue to help me moving forward with my career.”
If you ever travel to Waltham, Mass and can catch a Brandeis game, keep an eye on number 10 going forward.