In the sport of lacrosse your most outstanding player may not be the goal scorer. It is of equal importance that your opponent does not have possession of the ball as much as it is to score. Therefore, the best defender can be the key to the success of the team. This is true with the 10th ranked Villanova men’s lacrosse team and their Long Stick Midfielder Brian Karalunas. His name will not be on the score sheet. However, watching the game closely, Karalunas will be the disruptor on defense that keeps the other team from getting goals. That is his motivation as a player.
“I am not putting points on the board, so my source of pride is between the lines,” said Karalunas. “When other people have the ball, I try to get it back for our offense to score.”
The Senior from Dewitt, NY has always been successful in doing so. Karalunas leads the team in Caused Turnovers and Ground Balls by a large margin. Fourteen games into the season in Caused Turnovers Karalunas has a team-high 63, an average of 4.5 per game which leads the nation. Second on the team is Chris Creighton with 17. With 39 Ground Balls Chris Ficke is second on the team to Karalunas with 66. For his career the Wildcat picked up 205 Ground Balls, and caused 146 turnovers. Karalunas has turned the ball over just 9 times. Coach Michael Corrado credits the tenacity of his team’s captain as the reason for his success as a player.
“He is relentless,” said Corrado. “He’s got heart, he is a competitor. He is a great athlete out there. He has very quick hands, and he is very smart with his checks.”
Karalunas has registered a career-high 8 Caused Turnovers in two games. He did so in a March 24, 2010 game against Drexel, and this season against Princeton. A career-high 8 Ground Balls came against Delaware in April. His contributions are noticed. Karalunas is a nominee for the Tewaaraton Trophy which symbolizes the National Player of the Year. He is also a nominee for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award for excellence in Community, Classroom, Character, and Competition. The Honors and Philosophy major carries a 3.93 Grade Point Average and will graduate this spring. He was named the 2010-11 Big East Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. Karalunas was selected in the MLL Draft.
The Long Stick Midfielder registered one assist this season. However, the one scoring play was one of the most memorable of the season. Against the top-ranked Orange of Syracuse, Karalunas caused a turnover, fed the ball to Villanova Attack Kevin Cunningham who scored tying the game at 4 with 59 seconds to play. Villanova fell short in the game, but the play by Karalunas and Cunningham had the crowd on its feet.
It was in his athletic past where Karalunas planted the seeds of achievement in the lacrosse hustle stats. The Midfielder learned this skill early from playing hockey.
“I consider myself a hockey player at heart too,” said Karalunas. “I played hockey since I was four years old, and I like to translate a lot of what I learned to lacrosse; the hand-eye stuff, playing the ball on the ground, and stick work. I think hockey is the best cross-training for lacrosse, and vice versa.”
“That has a carry-over effect,” Corrado said about Brian’s hockey background. “He can get the ball off the ground where other guys can’t. When the ball is on the ground he is great about picking it up and getting it out of there.”
What separates Karalunas from the rest is his intensity, doing his job, and the commitment to the team. He loves to play, and enjoys the style he brings on the field. He does not play for the individual awards or recognition, he plays to win, for fun, and for Villanova. It is the formula for winning and being a winner.
“That’s my number one goal, if I can prevent them from playing 6 on 6, then we have a better chance of stopping them,” Karalunas said. “It’s nice that our defense gets some credit. We are starting to get recognition as a strong defensive team. The credit? It’s nice.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian