Jack Runkel has made the last five starts in the net for No. 8 Loyola, but the sophomore still isn’t sure that his play has tightened his grip as the team’s goalkeeper of the future.
“There’s a battle going on between [junior] Mike Bonitatibus and I, and it’s still going on now,” said Runkel, who made a career-best 13 saves in Saturday night’s 13-5 victory over UMBC. “I may seem like the starter, but in practice, it’s both of us. We’re both battling it out. I guess the comfort level comes in the game. I’ve just got to settle myself down.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Runkel has used his size to his advantage, filling the net and forcing shooters to worry about accuracy. And with each start, Runkel – who has recorded a 7.32 goals-against average and a .549 save percentage – is developing a level of chemistry with the defense.
And yet, Runkel knows that coach Charley Toomey has made it clear that Bonitatibus, who started the team’s first three contests and has posted a 6.67 goals-against average and a .429 save percentage, is still in the mix to play.
“Each start, I feel more comfortable with the defense that I’m playing with, but I don’t feel comfortable as the starting goalie because I know my spot can be pulled out from underneath me at any point,” Runkel said. “In the middle of the game, if I let in a bad goal, I know that Coach has Boni to go. Our record would probably be the same if he was playing. So I think our coach has two good options for goalie. I’m still battling it out with him every day at practice.”
For his part, Toomey credited Runkel with evolving as a player and becoming the goalkeeper the coaches thought he could be.
“Runk is really developing into getting some stops and having the leadership out there and getting guys to their spots,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been waiting for, and I’m watching the young man grow up right on the spot.”
Runkel won’t feel entirely comfortable without an announcement from Toomey that he is the starting goalie for the remainder of the season. Runkel also knows that announcement may not be forthcoming either.
“I think any player who is on the bench would love to have someone come out and say, ‘You’re the starter, you’re our guy,’” he said. “But I know that if I was on the sidelines, I’d feel that way. I want us to have a consistent guy. But on the other hand, I know that I’d be a good choice, and I know that Boni knows that he’d be a good choice. It’s just a matter of focusing and not thinking about it too much.”