By Bob Narang

Prep Sports Report –

In a matter of a few weeks, the Brother Rice boys soccer team raised expectations for its season.

That’s a good thing, especially considering the Chicago Catholic League Blue program faces a tough schedule this fall.

Most games, the Crusaders start six freshmen to go with a few sophomores, making it a rebuilding season for Coach Matt Prunckle. Goalie Oscar Cerritos and defender Brendan Nye are the Crusaders’ lone two senior starters.

“We might be young, but we’re ahead of schedule,” Prunckle said. “We started the season thinking we’re going to lay a strong foundation for years to come, but now it’s about competing in each and every game.

“We’ve proven we can play, so it’s about finding that consistency with a young group to be a factor in the Catholic League Blue. It’s a very difficult conference. We have to compete hard, and hopefully we can win a regional and sectional title.”

Prunckle is no stranger to building a program from the bottom. Look at the recent success St. Laurence has had with its boys soccer program. Prunckle was the head coach there from 2014-2019, helping recruit top-notch student athletes – both on and off the field – to the once dying Burbank private school program. St. Laurence has been a force on the South Side since the 2015 season, and this year’s group of seniors at the school is the last class Prunckle helped recruit.

The Crusaders’ youthful squad was recently on display at the 19th Annual Showdown Series presented by PepsiCo. With Cerritos not in the goal due to an injury, Brother Rice dropped a 3-0 decision to Minooka and lost 2-0 to Wheaton Warrenville South in the popular showcase.

“We have to learn from the ups and downs in a long regular season,” said Brother Rice junior defender Roman Harris, whose team recently beat Sandburg and tied Marist. “The expectations are pretty high for us.

“We’ve beat teams we haven’t beaten in a few years. We just have to play together, no one can be selfish and dribbling. As long as we’re playing one-two touch passes to each other and playing fast, we’re going to be fine.”

Sophomore defender Matthew Jeffrey, playing in his first season for Brother Rice, noted that he’s seen a lot of toughness in his teammates, especially during a big 4-2 comeback win over DePaul Prep.

“We’re super young, so the years to come are going to be a lot of fun,” Jeffrey said. “I’ve seen a lot of fight to come back when being down.”

Prunckle said his young players will benefit from playing heavy minutes early in their careers.

“It’s about figuring out how to play,” Prunckle said. “Against Minooka, we struggled a bit because they have a lot of experience.

“We collectively have to breakdown teams that individually are more physically dominant than us. Right now, it’s about learning and grinding through the regular season and preparing for the playoffs.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 26 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.