By Tim O’Brien – The Beverly Review

Matt Prunckle has seen the heights of the Br. Rice soccer program.

A 2004 graduate, Prunckle was a key member of the 2003-2004 Br. Rice team that finished fourth in state, the program’s best season.

Now, he will leave his mark on the program from the sidelines after being named head coach of the varsity soccer team.

“It’s great to be back. The goal is to bring Br. Rice back to being the top soccer program in the area,” Prunckle said. “My senior year, we finished fourth in state. Being able to come back and, hopefully, finish some unfinished business is the ultimate goal.”

Prunckle grew up in Beverly and attended St. Barnabas Elementary School. He played soccer for St. Xavier University. As coach, he replaces Kevin McAlinden, who will be an associate head coach.

Prunckle returns to his alma mater after spending the last four seasons at St. Laurence, where he turned the Vikings into consistent winners.

He compiled a 44-25-11 record, leading St. Laurence to a Class 2A regional title in 2017 and back-to-back Chicago Catholic League (CCL)-Green titles in the last two seasons.

Kyle Boekeloo has been named head soccer coach at St. Laurence.

Prunckle said it was a tough decision to leave the Vikings, but the opportunity to reunite with the Crusaders could not be missed.

“It was a great group of kids,” Prunckle said. “That was the hardest part of the transition, leaving the kids.”

Prunckle takes the helm of a soccer program that has struggled in recent years. The Crusaders won back-to-back regional titles in 2008 and 2009 but haven’t won one since.

One of Prunckle’s top goals is to make Br. Rice the destination for the best soccer players in the region.

“The numbers and energy were great in recent years,” Prunckle said. “We want that drawing factor. Rice soccer is going to be where the top players are going. It used to be that way. That’s what we want to be again.”

Prunckle and the coaching staff are planning to promote the program by unveiling a soccer clubhouse/locker room in the football stadium before the beginning of the season in August.

“It’s getting the name out there. We want people to know Br. Rice cares about soccer,” Prunckle said. “Hopefully this shows the school’s commitment to the program and making this program something special.”

Next season, the Crusaders will return leading scorer Jack Finnegan, a junior forward who scored 25 goals last season.

For Prunckle, the soccer X’s and O’s begin with a key defensive stat.

“At St. Laurence, we always talked about our goals-against average being at 1 or below,” he said. “You do that, and it means you’re in every game. If we can close that gap off the average from last year and bump up our own goals, we have a chance to turn this thing around quickly. We need to be much stingier defensively.”

The Crusaders will compete in a realigned CCL against the top teams in the league, including Mt. Carmel, St. Ignatius and St. Laurence.

“Our singular focus is the goals-against average, but you also talk about competing for those conference championships and then the state playoffs,” Prunckle said. “You have to have that in mind as you build up.”