The St. Thomas soccer team will arrive in DeLand, Florida on Saturday to take on Stetson in their quest for their first away conference win.
For the most part, the pursuit shown by their defense this season was the impetus for Tommy’s record (3-2 overall, 2-1 Pioneer Football League), with sophomore midfielder Jonathan Bunce starring.
6ft 3,233lb Bunce got two sacks in his win over Valparaiso last Saturday. And he responded with an interception for a touchdown last week in a loss to Tommy in San Diego.
St Thomas’s move to Division I has added importance to finding players with a combination of size, speed and skill, and head coach Glenn Caruso knows he has one in Bunce.
“He’s a more difficult fight because he has a big body and can run very well,” Caruso said.
“If you were to say, ‘Give me an example of a multi-functional player who plays defense,’ I would first point to John Bunce.”
Caruso is also impressed with Bunce’s efforts and dedication.
“We had five games and he was our Mr. Hustle in three of them,” Caruso said. “His attempts to ruthlessly pursue the soccer guy are phenomenal.”
Bunce entered Fall Camp # 2 in the depths table as a strong outside midfielder behind senior Trent Meyer, but he quickly impressed the coaches with his consistently strong performance.
“He played like 1 (starter) and Trent played like 1,” Caruso said. “It gave us the freedom and flexibility to bring Trent inside.”
Since last season ended due to COVID-19, Bunce, the sophomore from Edina, is essentially a newcomer to the football field. He turned out to be a capable student.
“This defense can definitely be tricky, so the rookie (training) got me a little dizzy,” Bunce said. “In the fall, things started clicking for me, and as soon as they click, you can just play fast. This is the crossing that most defenders go through. Just being able to play fast, play physically, allowed me to play some games. ”
Bunce was recruited to St. Thomas as a dual sports athlete. He is the catcher and designated hitter on Tommy’s baseball team. The opportunity to participate in both sports played a role in Bunce’s decision to visit St. Thomas.
“Football is my main sport,” Bunce said. “Let’s see with baseball. It’s hard now, when we moved to Division I. When football is over, I will reconsider my assessment with the coaches and see how it looks. ”
Bunce said he did not pay attention to the first division football camps in his junior high school summer, in part because he played baseball. As a result, he did not get the most out of Division I schools and believes that this played a role in keeping him out of recruitment as a senior.
“There are a lot of guys in high school who have good stats and are captains of their team,” Bunce said. “This is a two-way street; if you are not interested in their school, you are difficult to distinguish. ”
Bunce considered it preferable to play sports at the University of Minnesota or North Dakota, but knew that this meant that he would not be able to play baseball. A strong connection with Tommy’s coaching staff also helped him make the decision.
“St. Thomas’s coaches have seen me a lot, ”Bunce said. “Just by talking to my dad, I wanted to be where the coaches have a vision of me, not somewhere where I’m just another guy out of 110.
“I thought this was the place that would challenge me the most.”