The Silent Assassin

Being in the spotlight is something that Kari Otani, midfielder for the Vikings women’s soccer team, is not accustomed to. Otani, a junior at Portland State, has played for the soccer team in each of her previous two seasons. She is known as a silent yet deadly player, making the big plays that don’t necessarily garner major publicity. She has played soccer since the age of four, never taking a season off but often contemplating quitting the sport.


Otani spent her adolescent years in Kahului, Hawaii, only moving to Portland prior to her freshman year at PSU, a move that was not only a great difference in distance and scenery but also in the game that she has participated in since her youth.  


“I moved because I wanted to get away and experience something different and Portland seemed like a safe place,” Otani said. “Here it is a lot more intense with a lot more practice. Also the competitiveness is a lot higher, which I think made me a better player.”   


Otani has played two-plus years of quality soccer at PSU. At only five feet even, she has never let her height become a hindrance to her ability to perform on the field. En route to a Big Sky Conference regular season title last season she played in and started all 19 of the Viking’s games, scoring two goals and finishing with four points total.


This season is Tim Bennett’s first at the helm of PSU’s soccer program. The team is now 3-4 after a weekend of road games in Wyoming and northern Colorado. Currently the Vikings are ranked number two in the Big Sky standings, behind only Weber State. Coach Bennett understands that Otani is a significant contributor and a key factor to their early season success. 


“Kari is not only a very excellent athlete on the field, she is an all around great kid,” Bennett said. “I believe that she brings a unique perspective to the team because of her originally being from Hawaii.” 


“If I could change anything about the way that I play I would like to be more aggressive,” Otani said when questioned about possible changes to her playing style. “Well, I would also like to score some more goals.”      Otani has yet to boot one past the goalkeeper this season but she hasn’t lost hope or desire for an opportunity to score a goal this year. Though she hasn’t scored yet, she has come close with a total of four shots on goal so far.  


Coach Bennett doesn’t necessarily think that she needs to score a goal to be considered an effective player. He is delighted with the way that she plays even when she doesn’t have the ball.


“On offense she is very creative,” Bennett said. “What makes her a special player though is what she does when she doesn’t have the ball. It is amazing the things she does for our team without the ball.”

Otani seems to be playing extremely well right now, but what about the future?


“I don’t think that I have a future in soccer.” Otani said, “I think that I will end up doing something in the medical field, possibly rehab or sports medicine.”


Coach Bennett was unsure about the distant future but he was certain about Kari’s immediate future in soccer.


“I know that if she keeps playing the way that she is playing right now she could be all Big Sky very soon,” Bennett said. “As for her future she can really make anything of it that she wants.”


Thus far Otani has had an impressive career for Portland State. Even if most wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that she is even on the field, due to her height and tendency to make the great play that isn’t recognized by the casual fan. She may prefer it that way. Like an assassin, she doesn’t need the publicity to be “relentless, energetic and intelligent,” as Bennett described her. All she needs on the field is an opponent, teammates and a soccer ball. The rest will speak for itself.