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Getting Down to Defense with Brian Karalunas

March 17, 2016
Long Island Lizards defenseman and MLL Defensive Player of the Week Brian Karalunas is no stranger to success.  In a suburb of Syracuse, he was a defensive standout for Jamesville Dewitt High School where he captained the Red Rams for two seasons, including a State Championship in 2007. He earned a number of individual awards including First-Team All-CNY and the state final Defensive MVP. At Villanova, he was named Team MVP in 2009, 2010, and 2011. He was a two-time All-Big East First Team selection and a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. In 2011, he was Villanova’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year, the 2011 Lowes Senior CLASS Award winner and a USILA First-Team All-American. He leads the NCAA and Villanova all-time with 153 caused turnovers.

He has continued his defensive success into MLL play where one-on-one match-ups dominate the game. Defensemen tend to have more trouble transitioning from the team-style defense of the college game to the professional game, where the attackmen are stronger, faster, more skilled, and will always take a defender head-on. Mastering the one-on-one match-up is key to a successful defense and Karalunas has discovered that he can handle the challenge. As was evident in the Lizards upset over the Boston Cannons last weekend, Karalunas was part of a defense that held the league’s top scoring team to just ten goals.

“We knew that the Boston Cannons historically, and especially this season, put up a ton of goals and have a very potent offense,” said Karalunas. “Our philosophy going in was to play team defense, but also to win the individual match-ups. Our hope was that if we slid hard and relied on everyone else on the field to win their individual match-ups we would be in good shape.”

The Lizards did just that and went on to defeat the Cannons 13-10. Before the game, Coach Spallina assigned Karalunas to mark up on Cannons attackman Ryan Boyle. He stepped up and kept Boyle without a point, which is only the second time in Boyle’s nine-year career that he hasn’t tallied a point in a game. For that defensive performance, Karalunas was named MLL Defensive Player of the Week.

“It’s a great award, especially since our defense has been playing so well over the past few weeks,” said Karalunas about the honor. “I see it as a testament to our team play as a whole. My hope is that we can keep it going. We’ve really started to gel this last month of the season.”

Karalunas attributes the Lizards’ recent success to how well the players, coaches, and the GM have come together under the organization's system. There has been a lot of change out on Long Island recently with the trade of veteran Nicky Polanco to the Bayhawks, transitioning to new ownership, and the addition of a few college players to the roster. These rookies include Army defenseman Tim Henderson, who was Karalunas’ teammate at the club level throughout high school, and Duke star, C.J. Costabile.

“It’s been incredible getting to play with those guys, especially being back with Tim again,” says Karalunas of the rookies. “Our defense is just so young and fast and athletic now that we’re able to really push out all over the field, which is the brand of lacrosse that I like to play. Those guys in particular both dominate the middle of the field. They’re both great ground ball guys and great transition guys.”

With these new additions it has taken a few weeks for the team to see some consistency. Karalunas thinks that the talent of Henderson and Costabile will be a great addition to an ever-improving Lizards defense. With the win over the Cannons and the way the defense is really starting to gel, he can only see the team continuing success from here.

“I don’t see us going backwards,” he says. “The hope is that we continue to get better every game and I think we will. We are really starting to gel as a unit and I’m really looking forward to pushing gears towards the playoff stretch.”


Facebook or Twitter?

Neither. I’m a people watcher.

Beach or Mountains?

Mountains for more extreme activities. I burn too easily at the beach!

Celebrity Crush?

Jessica Alba

Favorite Sports Movie?

Mighty Ducks

Favorite Pump Up Song?

"Lose Yourself” by Eminem

The Long Island Lizards next face the Ohio Machine on Saturday, June 16 at 7 PM ET at Selby Stadium in Delaware, Ohio.

2012 MLL All-Star Game presented by Moe's Southwest Grill

MLL will host its marquee event in Palm Beach County, FL this year on Saturday, June 30! To buy your tickets now,  click here. To learn more about the 2012 MLL All-Star Game presented by Moe's Southwest Grill,  click here. The 2012 MLL All-Star Game will feature the best lacrosse players in the world, all on one field and will be aired live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.