Japanese lacrosse took another big step in the right direction on Friday night as Denver Outlaws attackman Kohta Kurashima made his MLL debut and scored in the Denver Outlaws 13-11 loss against the Chesapeake Bayhawks, becoming the first Japanese-born player to score a goal in the professional lacrosse history.
Kurashima making history as the first Japanese-born player to score a goal in professional lacrosse comes just one year and 60 days after Denver Outlaws reserve goalie Kaisuke Iwamoto made history as the first Japanese-born player to play in a professional lacrosse game. Iwamoto was also suited up on Saturday, making it the first time in history that two Japanese-born players appeared on the same game day roster, as well.
“He is the pioneer of Japanese players in the MLL and I have so much respect for him, I was so glad to be suiting up with him during the same game.”, Kurashima said when asked about being on the same team as Iwamoto, who is also roommates with Kurashima in Denver.
The attackman was signed to the Outlaws roster at the beginning of the 2019 season after open tryouts and spent the first 15 weeks of the season on the practice roster. He was promoted to the active roster on September 17th before making his MLL debut in Friday’s game.
When asked about his reaction when he first heard he was going to suit up on Saturday, Kurashima said, “When I first heard that I was suiting up I was surprised and couldn’t stop smiling, but honestly, I was pretty nervous. I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time so I made up my mind to play aggressive.”
Kurashima had never played lacrosse until he got to college at Seikei University in Musashino, Tokyo, Japan. “When I first saw the game, I thought it was the coolest and most exciting sport that I had ever seen.”, said Kurashima when asked about his start in lacrosse.
Kurashima’s goal came early in the game as he put Denver back up 2-1 after Chesapeake had just tied it. Posted behind the cage at X, Jack Jasinski feed Kurashima the ball and then replaced him at X as Kurashima drove towards the cage and ripped it before the Chesapeake defender could ever make contact with him, stinging the top right corner.
When asked about scoring that goal, Kurashima said, “After I scored, I felt I was the happiest guy in the world. It was absolutely the best moment I’ve ever had.”
Kurashima’s goal sent shockwaves across the lacrosse landscape. The video of his goal made its way around social media all weekend and captured the lacrosse community across the globe. Kurashima said that he had more than 100 messages after the game and that he felt like he had made history.
While the celebration and acknowledgment from those afar meant a lot to Kurashima, he said the celebration with his teammates was most special. “My teammates were celebrating with me after I scored the goal and after the game, too. Those moments were special to me and I want to say thanks to my teammates and coaches who supported me.”