Villanova LSM Karalunas Didn't Exactly Come Out of Nowhere
The men's Division I game I'm most looking forward to learning the result of this weekend is top-ranked Syracuse's tilt on the road at seventh-ranked Villanova Saturday night. 1) To see if the Wildcats can spring the upset against the Orange, who have won each of their last two games in overtime, and 2) To see how or if Villanova long stick midfielder Brian Karalunas can disrupt Syracuse's offense.
The senior has torn it up so far with 37 caused turnovers (Villanova has 80 as a team), and 35 ground balls in eight games. Karalunas has even appeared on a few lacrosse observers' Tewaaraton Award watch lists recently. An eight-ground ball, eight-caused turnover performance in a 10-9 win against Princeton March 15 really sent him to the forefront of national discussion.
But he probably should have been there a lot sooner.
The Long Island Lizards drafted Karalunas in the sixth round (No. 35 overall) of January's Major League Lacrosse draft. A steal? "That's what people were telling me after the draft," Long Island Lizards coach Jim Mule said Friday.
Mule correctly pointed out that Karalunas was voted Big East Defensive Player of the Year last year by conference coaches, selected ahead of others such as Syracuse long stick midfielder Joel White, who was the No. 2 overall pick to the Rochester Rattlers in January's MLL draft and considered the best LSM in the country.
"The coaches obviously had a lot of respect for him," Mule said of the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Karalunas, who caused 3.47 turnovers per game as a junior. "He's a wrecking ball out there."
So, you see, Karalunas didn't exactly come out of nowhere this season, though admittedly yours truly wouldn't have given him the correct amount of praise if I were asked about him preseason. The senior from Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) may be the best long stick midfielder in the country. He just got lost behind White in preseason rankings and in the more general "Syracuse's defense is really good" preseason storyline.
Another big performance by Karalunas Saturday night would make even more people pay attention to him.