Shawn Boehmcke is a walking contradiction.
Start with the nickname, Bones. It was a natural when he arrived at Loyola College three years ago, but maturation and the weight room have built a 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame that fills a soccer goal quite nicely. Many of his classmates are preparing for business careers, but Boehmcke is an elementary education major who is spending the semester doing his student teaching.
He is completing one of the best statistical careers by a Division I soccer goalie, but he's never gotten much attention outside the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. His name is ninth on the NCAA all-divisions career list for shutouts, but Boehmcke deflects credit to Scott Manning, his mentor, and David Lord, a reserve the last four years.
"After four years, Shawn's still an unknown commodity to a lot of people," Loyola coach Bill Sento said. "He's the best-kept secret in town."
Heading into this weekend's MAAC tournament at Curley Field, Boehmcke has 11 shutouts this season and 40 in his career. In search of their fourth straight MAAC championship, the Greyhounds (14-4-1) play Iona in tomorrow's (2 p.m.) semifinals, which start with Manhattan vs. Fairfield at noon. The championship game is 2 p.m. Sunday.
Boehmcke came to Loyola in 1989, when the Greyhounds entered the MAAC. They since have gone 33-1 in the conference, the lone loss, 2-1, at Fairfield Oct. 21, the day after Loyola made its only appearance of the season in the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America rankings.
Most of Boehmcke's shutouts have come in the MAAC, but this season only four of his 11 shutouts have been in MAAC games, and he's one shy of the school record set by Dave Barreutta in 1987. The vanquished include nationally ranked Boston University and George Mason and recent NCAA tournament participants Columbia and Howard.
Boehmcke isn't sure he would have those career numbers if his style hadn't been made over three years ago. Boehmcke came out of Merrick, N.Y. with solid credentials. He helped Chaminade High win the Nassau-Suffolk Catholic League in 1988, and even though he said he's never been a prospect for soccer burnout, Boehmcke had the proper club credentials and went to the right camps. Or did he?
"I went to Joe Machnik's camps all through high school," Boehmcke said of the national goalkeepers coach. "I was taught to stay low, explode off the [goal] line. I'd squat the way I was taught, but sometimes my feet would get in the way. When I got here, the first thing Scott told me was that I was doing things all wrong."
Scott Manning, who spent nine of his 13 professional seasons with the Blast, was assisting Sento when Boehmcke arrived.
"It's my personal belief is that an individual has to develop his own style," said Manning, now an investment executive. "Shawn was a little late developing his athletic ability, but he's 6-4 and he can jump. You sit on the line, you let other people control your destiny. Why not go get the ball and take opportunities away from people?"
Manning's mantra was "Stand up, stand up." Boehmcke listened.
"Scott will come out and stop the other team's attack before he has to make the difficult save," Sento said.
As a freshman, Boehmcke entered the lineup when Jason Wright broke an ankle in a 3-0 defeat of Towson State, and his first collegiate start was a 3-1 defeat of then-nationally ranked St. Louis.
Boehmcke was in the goal when the Greyhounds won their first MAAC title, but the job was open when he and Wright reported in 1990. Boehmcke's drive was questioned by Sento, but he took over at halftime of a season-opening loss at William & Mary. With Boehmcke starting 18 games, Loyola went 16-1-5 the rest of the way and recorded a school-record 13 shutouts.
The Greyhounds slumped to 12-8-2 last season, but five freshmen starters have helped them resurface as a South Atlantic power. Boehmcke and fellow captains Jim Garvey and Vince Moskunas, a four-year starter in the back out of Calvert Hall, guide the younger players. Lord, the third-string goalie, keeps an eye on Boehmcke.
"If I'm not ready to play, Dave lets me know," Boehmcke said. "He gets on me if I'm lackadaisical."
Lord shouldn't have to voice any warnings this weekend. Loyola's faint hopes of getting into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987 require another MAAC title.
"Ever since the opener [an overtime victory at Old Dominion], the joke has been that the next game is the biggest of our careers," Boehmcke said of the urgency Loyola's seniors feel. "Funny thing is, it's usually been true."