After a season-ending shoulder injury in 2010, Ohio State lacrosse redshirt junior defenseman Matt Kawamoto set his sights on a big return last season.
After being named the Eastern College Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and garnering All-American honorable mention honors, Kawamoto said he feels he accomplished just that.
“I was shocked,” Kawamoto said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to push to become an All-American.”
Kawamoto racked up 32 ground balls and caused 14 turnovers in a total of 15 games for the Buckeyes this season.
Coach Nick Myers said the way Kawamoto plays is what catches his eye.
“The intensity Matt brings to the field really helps define who we are,” Myers said. “He’s got a great voice, and so much of defense is communication.”
Myers also said the entire Buckeyes benefited from the leadership that Kawamoto provided.
“He is also a glue-guy who brings the other five or six defensemen together, and gets everyone on the same page,” Myers said. “He is very vocal, and I think guys are drawn to that. Off the field, he is also a great teammate. He will always be there for you.”
After his injury in 2010, Kawamoto said the transition back into lacrosse was difficult, but that he had plenty of encouragement.
“I came back in the fall working on just getting stuff back and taking small steps,” Kawamoto said. “I really turned it up once the season came around.”
Myers said that while Kawamoto has always had the potential to be an All-American, there was a moment when the coaches all came to a consensus that the 2011 season could be special for Kawamoto.
“He came back in January in the best shape I have ever seen him in,” Myers said. “He had that same motor we had always seen but just another level of intensity. He had the injury before, but it really made him step back, understand the opportunity he has and that you never know when (injuries) can come up on you. In turn, he just worked that much harder on his game.”
Kawamoto said he celebrated the award by relaxing with his friends and going home to Virginia to see his family.
Although Kawamoto was excited to be named an All-American, he said he will not be resting on laurels for next season.
“I personally like to look at team goals before anything else,” Kawamoto said of his upcoming senior season. “I want to win the ECAC league and make it to the NCAA tournament to make a run at a national championship. I think we have the team and talent to do it. We just have to put it all together.”