Welcome to something special: Position U. In this six-part series, your favorite college lacrosse lover, Ryan Conwell, will break down the NCAA DI men’s programs that can consider themselves the best at producing a given position in recent history. Now, let’s get into who produces the best lacrosse long stick midfielders, a.k.a. LSM U.
When trying to determine which schools have a reputation for producing the best players at a certain position, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. It’s easy enough to just create a list off the top of your head, but in an effort to try and be as objective as possible, I of course lean on my old friend: math! I needed to find a way to consistently note which players could be considered better than others while also doing so in a manner which could be calculated in some way.
The result was making a formula that took into account All-America votes (via USILA), Postseason awards, and also success at the Pro Level. For that last piece, I considered draft picks and rounds, but depending on the year, too many players get drafted and never play, or play a limited amount of time. So instead, I looked at All-Star rosters across the MLL and PLL to give an additional nudge.
The next question was how far back to look. Since we’re dealing with college, going beyond 4 years was a given. One great recruiting class does not mean your school is all of a sudden the best at producing defenders. We need a long enough trend to make a real pattern emerge. So, I went to 10 years, but the year 2020 kind of stuck out. Because, well, *you know why*. To make up for 2020’s lack of postseason awards and all-star games, I added 2011 to the mix as well. More is better, right?
The benefit of going all the way back to 2011 for pro all-star games is it gave some of those wily vets a chance to impact the rankings of their schools as well. That way there’s a small nod to the true history of a program in addition to the heavily-weighted recent past. So mashing all these numbers together produced a list of the top programs to produce players at each position.
Long stick midfielders were an odd position to track for this as well. In college, most teams are good about noting who their LSMs are, and the USILA does recognize it as a standalone position for All-American honors. But even with that, they can qualify for postseason awards in two spots – they can be either the McLaughlin Award recipient as the nation’s best midfielder (like CJ Costabile and Joel White did), or they could be the Schmeisser Award winner as the country’s top defender, like John Sexton. The other interesting part of this is that because you really only have one major player at this position on a team, the sample size shrinks quite a bit, making the impact of a single player very large on the rankings.
So, which programs gets to lay claim as recent history’s “LSM U?”
LSM U: Who Has Produced the Best Long Stick Midfielders?
That thing I said about one player really affecting the rankings? That would be Mr. Brian Karalunas.
The man was a monster in his prime. He was an MLL All-Star in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2018 and was also a First Team All-American in 2011. Some of the best long stick midfielders played at schools lower on the list, so it was just BK who brought the Wildcats up to three. He also had help from John LoCascio, who was also a First Team All-American in 2014 and a Third Teamer in 2013.
2: Loyola & Syracuse
A tie? Shenanigans! I demand a ground ball drill to decide the winner!
Actually, can we do this, please? Even though Joel White just retired following this PLL season, I’d still love to watch him and Scott Ratliff battle in 1:1 ground ball drills for longer than I’d like to admit.
But I digress. Yes, there was a tie, and yes Ratliff and White were a major reason for that. Ratliff went from Third Team to Second Team All-American to perennial All-Star in the MLL and PLL. The only All-Star Game he didn’t play in since 2015 was last year when there wasn’t one. But what pushed Loyola up to No. 2? Ryan McNulty with his 2019 Honorable Mention and 2021 Second Team All-American distinction.
For the Orange, White absolutely led the way with his 2011 First Team All-American award (his previously mentioned McLaughlin award was in 2010, so that didn’t factor into the rankings) and repeated pro All-Star accolades. Also helping to elevate the Orange were Brett Kennedy over the past three years and 2015’s Honorable Mention for Peter Macartney.
Bringing home their THIRD Position U title is the Terps. They also topped the midfield and defense lists, so it would make sense that their top defensive midfield specialist is also typically very good. Maybe Maryland is really good, too? I should look into that, it could be big news.
Starting things off for the Terps back in 2011 was Second Team All-American Brian Farrell. That was followed with 2012 Second Team All-American Jesse Bernhardt, who then gained a First Team nod in 2013 before turning in some All-Star awards to boot. Then in 2016, Greg Danseglio earned Third Team honors, followed by Matt Neufeldt’s Honorable Mention in 2017. And then to cap it all off, you have Michael Ehrhardt and his All-American awards preceding his dominant pro career. Given all of that, I would definitely say that Maryland deserves the top spot here.
Didn’t see who you thought you would up there? Here’s how the next bunch finished in our LSM U rankings, in order:
5: Duke & Notre Dame
6: North Carolina
7: Johns Hopkins
Position U Series
You can find the rest of the Position U series here, which will include Attack U, Defense U, Faceoff U, Midfielder U, LSM U, and Goalie U, with a new one coming each week into early November.