Villanova, Pa. -
Just weeks ago Brian Karalunas helped the Ohio Machine win their first Steinfeld Cup. A 2011 graduate of Villanova, he is now in his final year of law school at Stanford where he also serves as the men’s lacrosse head coach.
“It is an incredible feeling winning the MLL championship,” shared Karalunas. “This is the first championship I have won in any sort since I won the CAA championship in 2009 at Villanova. When it has been that long you almost forget what an incredible feeling it is, a sense of euphoria. It is amazing and I am still on cloud nine.”
Ohio finished the season 9-5 and defeated the defending MLL champions the Denver Outlaws by a final of 17-12 in the championship game. The Machine netted eight goals in the fourth quarter to come back to win. Karalunas earned First-Team All MLL honors for the first time in his career and was named to the All-Star team for the sixth straight season.
On July 23rd Karalunas “kayak” against the Outlaws during a regular season game went viral and was later named MLL’s defensive play of the year.
“That is what I was told, I don’t really keep up with social media, but that is what I heard through second hand sources. I wasn’t really expecting it, this is a young man’s game, and a lot of kids have just come out of college and play hard.”
The veteran was able to force the caused turnover and scoop up the ground ball and feed it down field to set up the Machine’s tying goal. They would go on to win that game 13-12.
“We were playing Denver on a Sunday, I took a red eye home to get to work on Monday morning, and by the time I landed I had a number of text messages.”
This season he was tied for the most caused turnovers in the league while also adding 61 ground balls.
“Law school has always been something I wanted to do, it was in the back of my mind. It seemed like the opportunity was right when I applied a few years ago and was in a place where I felt I should go back.”
New to the coaching scene, Karalunas was announced as the head coach in 2017. The team plays club teams that compete in the MCLA.
“I still get the same sense of excitement that I get from playing but it is a little different,” he shared about being on the sidelines. “In a way I get way more stressed coaching because you have a little less control, but I am having so much fun. I think it is an absolutely unbelievable job.”
Karalunas now knows how Coach Corrado and Coach Connor felt during his Villanova days.
“Back in my Villanova days Coach Corrado and Coach Connor would always tell the team how frustrating it was when they would tell us what to do and we go out there and say ‘yea we got it’ and we do the exact opposite. It is hard to appreciate what that means until it is happening to you.”
The impact that both of those coaches made on Karalunas’ life is still something he appreciates today. “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I absolutely love those coaches and I am still extremely close with them today. I think a large part as to why is because they really care about you and the team and that sort of passion is contagious.”
Karalunas can be considered one of Villanova’s most decorated student-athletes. During his four year as a Wildcat, he was named a USLIA All-American three times, a First Team selection in 2011, and a two time Honorable Mention (2009 and 2010). Also during his senior year he was named a Scholar All-American, part of the North/South All Star game, and the Lowes Senior Class Award Winner.
Three out of his four years, Karalunas was named Defensive Player of the Year, twice in the BIG EAST (2010 and 2011) and once in the CAA (2009). He was selected as Villanova’s male athlete of the year and the BIG EAST’s Male Scholar athlete of the year during his final season. At the team banquet he was named the recipient of the B. Joseph’s Tofani Award, which is given to the men’s lacrosse player with the highest GPA.
Karalunas shared, “some of my favorite game memories are the 2009 and 2011 NCAA games, winning the 2009 CAA Championship, and playing Syracuse in front of a packed Villanova Stadium. But the memories that mean the most were the ones that happened off the field.”
He went on to add, “The best memories are spending the early mornings and late afternoon with the guys. That was the real fun hanging out in the locker room and all bonding about having to go out there in freezing weather in the middle of January. When I get together with all of my teammates that is what we still talk about.”
In 2011 he was the 35th overall pick in the MLL draft by the Long Island Lizards and played for the team for four seasons. Halfway through, they changed their name to the New York Lizards. During his time as a member of the Lizards he collected 135 ground balls.
Just before the 2015 season, Karalunas joined the Ohio Machine throughout his three seasons he has helped the Machine reach the postseason every year and play for the championship twice. During those three years he has over 150 ground balls and has also caused 29 turnovers.
“In terms of where the league has gone from when I entered in 2011 until now the quality of play has gotten so much better in the MLL,” said Karalunas. “I think a lot of that has to do with the evolution of the sport and more guys are able to make a full time job out of the sport of lacrosse, not just as professional players, but as coaches and other aspects of the game.”