Loyola goalie Jack Runkel traces improvement to changes

A portion of Friday’s article on the improved play of No. 10 Loyola’s defense centered on the progress that Jack Runkel has made. After recording a 8.57 goals-against average and a .504 save percentage in the team’s first seven games, the junior goalkeeper has posted a 5.00 goals-against average and a .625 save percentage in his last three starts.

Runkel said one factor in his recent performances has been a conscious effort to break a habit of standing too deep in the cage. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Runkel takes up a lot of space, but he said that stepping out allows him to reduce the angle that opposing shooters have.

“I had my heels on the goal line for the good part of the season, and that was because whenever the goalie is not feeling as fast as he can possibly be, he takes a step back,” he said. “In the fall, I took a step back in the cage and never really broke that habit. I’m trying to do that now and cutting down more angle and taking up more of the net.”

Runkel said he wasn’t conscious of what he was doing until he and coach Charley Toomey studied his stance on game film.

“It never really occurred to me that I was doing that,” he said. “It was just one of things I was mindlessly doing. It was what was comfortable. Coach Toomey and I watched film, and we kind of picked up on that and tried it out in practice for a couple times. I liked it a lot, and I think I’ve been playing better.”

Runkel said another adjustment he has made is expanding his coverage of the bottom half of the net. While his size is an asset, it can also be a hindrance when he has to lower his body to block low shots.

“The scouting report on me was to shoot low a lot because they don’t think I can get down to the ball,” he said. “They liked bounce shots and low shots a lot. So Coach Toomey and I have been working a lot in practice at getting my body behind the ball and getting my body down to the ball, which I think has been paying off.”

Runkel may not have joined the top echelon of goalies like Maryland redshirt junior Niko Amato and Penn State junior Austin Kaut, but his value has never been underappreciated by his teammates.

“If we’re playing solid defense and Jack is able to get those saves, the team is better,” senior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins said. “If he’s able to make those saves when we have those small breakdowns, that just makes us more successful.”

Toomey concurred, saying, “Runkel is the backbone. When Runkel is playing well, there’s a lot of energy on the defensive end. Right now, he seems to be seeing the ball pretty well, and he’s very confident in the way he talks to the guys.”