Mililani’s Wurlitzer born to play soccer

Mililani defender Karlin Wurlitzer dribbled the ball away from Pearl City midfielder Brittny Ihara during the first half of an OIA girls soccer semifinal game. Photo by Jamm Aquino / Star-Advertiser

She’s been around the game since she could walk.

Karlin Wurlitzer was born to a soccer-playing mom and a soccer-playing dad, the first of three soccer-playing children. Even now, mom Lisa and dad Dane still play in weekend leagues. For Wurlitzer, living and breathing soccer year round, even playing with her mom, invigorates her world.

The Mililani senior has a glue effect on her team. As a co-captain, her instincts and decisions have an influential role. The Lady Trojans struggled some this season, more than usual, but came through with a lockdown defense that shut out four opponents in the playoffs en route to the program’s 17th Oahu Interscholastic Association title.

Wurlitzer, who is distantly related to the folks who started the world-famous piano and organ company, is a scholar-athlete who likes math, loves writing and carries a perfect grade-point average. She still wants more. She’ll leave Hawaii in a few months to continue her academic and athletic pursuits at Idaho State.

“What’s amazing is this family is humble, well-grounded and competitive. It’s how you can get sports and still have good values and traditions,” Mililani coach Ray Akiona said.

Back to holding mid, a position that doesn’t quite exist for every team. In fact, Akiona will expand the role of a typical midfielder when the situation — and the player — is the right fit.

“She has defensive responsibilities, but is also the first phase of the counter attack. She has to commit to starting the offense, as well,” he said. “Most defenders just defend the line and release the play forward. Karlin is in the position to actually play it forward. Karlin’s mobility and smarts, she fills that position well. That position, to me, is something that suits her personality and skill level, and gives her more freedom to utilize what she does well.”

Tehani Furuta, Jodi Lily and Wurlitzer are co-captains.

“Karlin has the composure, the compassion and the competitiveness. She’s so aware of the importance of compassion for her fellow players. She’s compassionate about her teammates who may not get as much playing time,” Akiona added. “She’s aware of all those issues. That’s what makes her stand out so much.”

Wurlitzer was featured in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read here. A Q&A is below:

Karlin Wurlitzer
Mililani Soccer

Favorites • Q&A
> My mom 🙂 (Lisa Wurlitzer)
> She’s been playing soccer since she was like, I don’t know, 10 years old. She’s up there and she’s playing and she’s still competitive. She plays in a women’s open league every weekend. I kind of grew up there on the soccer field.

Do you think she’ll ever stop?
> No, not really. Besides the competition, she’s made so many friends. It’s a giant community and there’s people in their 70s and 80s in their own division.

So they have cool uniforms?
> Yeah, they do, and every goal the older players score is a double goal.

> Buffalo Bills. Me and sister (Danean), we kind of arbitrarily pick a new team every year. We have no interest in football. We just want to get into the hype. We saw their record wasn’t that good, so we decided to cheer for them this year and they made the playoffs.

What if you had to visit Buffalo during winter and watch a game?
> Mmm, probably watch it from a hotel.

You don’t want to sit in the freezing wind and snow at the game?
> It might be a good experience one day.

Food (at home)
> Chicken noodle soup. Canned. Yup. I usually have Campbell’s. I like it. I have soup at lunch a lot at home. My parents make so much good food, but there’s no one food I like most.

Food (eating out)
> Panda Express. Chow fun and orange chicken. I usually get it as a bowl.

You could eat this every day?
> Hopefully not because it’s not that healthy. Fried and oily. Maybe once a week.

Hobby outside of sports: 
> Writing. I think I could free write for 45 minutes, but I like creative writing. Putting my ideas onto paper. I like reading poetry.

> Coco. It’s such a good story and there’s so much Spanish culture involved, it’s really interesting to watch. It’s classic Disney, the music is good. The movie makes you feel good.

TV Show
> The Good Doctor. It’s on ABC. We watch it on demand. I haven’t had time to catch up. I’ve been busy with soccer so I have to go back and watch it.

Are you worried that someone you know might spoil for you?
> Hmm, no, not really. Not many people I know watch it.

What makes the show addicting?
> It’s about a young doctor with autism, so he’s just trying to get by in life and he’s super good in surgery, and he has to gain people’s trust because of his condition.

Video Game
> Steppy Pants! You should totally try it on your phone it’s the best game ever

Is this a one-person entertainment thing?
> It’s a single player but you can pass it around with your friends to see who gets the high score.

Music Artist
> Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’ve listened to Hamilton probably upwards of 50 times. It’s Broadway, but it’s contemporary. I like a lot of Broadway musicals, actually. My favorite would have to be “In The Hype.” That’s by Lin-Manuel Miranda, too.

Teacher: Mr. (Steven) Schick
> He taught my ninth-grade English class. He’s a teacher you can sit in his class for hours and never get bored. We did a lot of discussions in class and he provides insight. It’s a big conversation and it’s really fun.

GPA: 4.0
> I’m taking some AP classes so hopefully it gets higher.

Some people seem to thrive on maximum stress in school and athletics.
> Yeah, pretty much, I do.

If you didn’t play sports, would your grades be higher or lower?
> I think I’d be pretty much the same. I’d probably procrastinate anyway and do the same amount of work.

> AP Psychology. You learn a lot of things about yourself that you always kind of knew about. You learn the proper terms and mechanisms for it.

Place to Relax
> The roof. I climb out of my brother’s window and go sit up there. I do like it at night because you can see the stars above the street light.

> ”Rise up, wise up, eyes up.” —Lin-Manuel Miranda
> Those are lyrics from Hamilton. Rise to your challenges, confront them and face them.

What your mom (Lisa) says that you can’t forget
> Maybe you can’t change the world, but you can leave everything a little better than you found it.

What your dad (Dane) says that you can’t forget
> You’ll be fine. Just keep going.

What your coaches say that you can’t forget
> You can never stop improving.
> I think my (Leahi) club coach, Gina Brewer, says it all the time.

How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason? 
> I have to learn to compartmentalize my life. I focus on school in school and soccer in soccer. As for the offseason- haha- there is no offseason. Literally.

OK, so when you’re 8 or 10 years old, soccer might not be as busy. Then you hit 12, 14, 16 and it’s a never-ending cycle. Have you seen some good players burn out?
> Oh, definitely, yeah. Not mentally, but physically. Actually that happened to me. Last year, my junior year, it started. I got an overuse knee injury during the high school season. I had to keep playing through it because soccer never ends. They said I might as well play through April because that’s the main competitive season and then I can tone it down a little bit. We were traveling in the summer for soccer, so I really didn’t get a break. The first break I got was after July. It was kind of a blessing that I had shoulder surgery in August.

What? Shoulder surgery?
> I popped it out a couple of times (playing soccer). Two or three times I fell on it weird and it came out. By the third or fourth time, I would be running and someone would grab my arm and it would pop out. The surgery was done arthroscopically. They stapled the ligament to the bone so it wouldn’t slide so much. It took three months to heal. I didn’t get cleared until two weeks into the high school season.

Could you still condition and run?
> I could still do running, but I couldn’t play.

What middle and elementary schools did you attend? 
> Mililani ‘Ike Elementary and Mililani Middle School

What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round? 
> My first team was the Cheetah Dolphin Rockets when I was 5. After AYSO, I played for Hui Kela, my mom’s independent team. We merged with Leahi Soccer Club and that’s where I’ve played ever since. We practice year-round, twice a week, with games on the weekends. I actually play for three Leahi teams so I typically play 2-3 games every weekend. We also have to commit to traveling with our team. I actually had to turn down an opportunity to go to Spain, Greece, and Italy with our school’s Spanish and Arts programs because our team is going to Fabulous Las Vegas instead. It’s alright, though, I’d take my team over anything.

Wait, this is in the future?
> Yes, during Spring Break. I was all excited about Europe, but I can’t go. That’s OK.

Is it true AYSO doesn’t keep score?
> Yes, but us competitive ones, we know what the score is. It’s just good to know the score. When you’re 5, you celebrate anything.

Where have you travelled for sports and school activities? 
> For soccer, we’ve been to Las Vegas, California, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Kansas. In middle school, we went to Maui and the Big Island. This coming summer I’m going to Japan with my brother’s soccer team and Costa Rica with my college team.

What college is this?
> Idaho State University. It’s our preseason trip in August. I’ve already been accepted.

What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
> I can recite 40 to 50 digits of π (pi). Is that surprising?

Yes. How does this happen?
> My math teacher, Mr. (Patrick) Riehle, has this poster of digits of π (pi) in his room. I memorized probably half. One time, I finished a test early in his class and I didn’t know what to do, so I said, maybe I can memorize this.

Do you think having a photographic memory is a good overall, or it can be bad if you bad memories?
> Fortunately, I haven’t had much of those scarring memories, so I’d say it’s good.

What else can you memorize? Could you memorize the Gettysburg Address?
> I remember getting the first two or three paragraphs down in about 30 minutes.

What is your ultimate dream/bucket list? What life would you like to have as an athlete? And away from sports? 
> I’d really like to learn to play the piano. And invent something. I don’t know what yet, but something useful. As for soccer, all I want to do is end up just like my mom: still playing hard and loving it after all these years. (She’s forbidding me to say exactly how many years).

Is music is mathematical, maybe jazz?
> I used to play the saxophone in middle school. I wasn’t that good at it but I liked music.

What is the history and background of your name? 
It’s not exactly a meaningful story, but I love it because it explains my family so well: When my mom was pregnant with me she told my dad, “What about the name Karlin?” Dad said, “No, that’s stupid.” Then, when I came out, my dad said, “What about the name Karlin?” And my mom said, “Wow, that’s a great idea. How ever did you come up with that?

Wurlitzer. I looked it because I knew I’d heard the name.
> Yeah, it’s a music company that makes organs and jukeboxes. I think the organ is named after Wurlitzer. I asked my dad about it, if we’re related. He said, ‘Yeah, but not close enough for money.’

So you want a piano?
> I want to learn how to play. My mom says we don’t have the space, but maybe in college, I’ll get a keyboard and take that up.

What do you remember about the 2015 season when Mililani won the state championship?
> That was when we had Tia Furuta and Kailana Kaeo. That was a good year. It’s different now. We have different strengths and weaknesses. The focus now is more on our defense. We don’t win by as large a margin anymore, but we still get it. It’s different, but it’s still a high level. I do whatever the team needs me to. Wherever coach needs me, I go there. At Mililani, I’ve played center back and holding mid.

What is a holding mid?
> It’s central midfielder but more of the defensive side.

Will you play the same position in college?
> At Idaho State Ill play wherever they end up playing me.

Who was Mililani’s toughest foe this year?
> I don’t know. I think the ILH teams we played, Kamehameha is very good, all around solid. Pearl City, that offense is just hard to stop. They’re dangerous from everywhere.

The Trojans had two losses at midseason, didn’t get the usual first-round bye. You were injured coming in. Now Mililani is playing championship level soccer.
> Losing got us more focused and we just know our style and ourselves a little better know.

And you don’t have a favorite athlete?
> Not particularly, no.

What do you think about the US Women’s Olympic Team? They had to fight just to be treated equally a few years back.
> It’s super important not just in soccer, but in all sports and all careers. Women’s soccer is a great platform for it.

What’s the general reasoning that women are paid less than men?
> Women can do both, they can raise a child and work. That makes us even stronger and that’s more commendable.

What do you plan on majoring in?
> I’m planning on biology. Probably not medicine, but something similar.

Any additional shout-outs or thoughts? 
> Shout-out to my siblings, Danean and Derek for never leaving me alone. I’d also like to give a special thank you to all my soccer aunties. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for them.


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