After first year head coach Christy Longacre guided the Ball State field hockey team to their first appearance in the MAC Championships since 2011 last season, the team continues to move further away from the program it once was.
The addition of eight freshmen to the 2017 roster makes for an equal number of newcomers and upperclassmen.
“[The freshmen] are bringing a lot to the table right now, especially with our last scrimmage,” Longacre said. “We have a lot more legs this year than we did last year. It’s going to be good because every week is going to be a battle for who is starting on the field.”
In the team’s recent scrimmage against Indiana, five of the eight newcomers saw playing time. The fresh skill set has not only provided for the team as a whole, but has instilled a sense of competitiveness within the team, as well.
“Practices are a lot of fun because we get to see what everyone can do,” junior captain Anya Eicher said. “There’s a type of competition where everyone wants to earn their spot on the field. Having that competition really steps up our practices.”
The team is using the inner-squad competitiveness to emphasize that all spots must be earned.
“The competitiveness to play and want to be on the field has shown to be an advantage for us,” Longacre said. “That goes back to the freshman class outworking the upperclassmen right now, making it a battle. The few minutes that they do get on the field in the game has showed me what they have and that they're giving it all they've got."
While the sense of earning a spot is still present, the team has worked as a unit on the field. According to senior captain Merinda Morely, this connection gives the team an edge on and off the field.
“The freshmen have brought great energy with them and it has spread to all of us,” Morley said. “We communicate well and are positive off the field. It’s definitely going to be an advantage on the field as well.”
This season, the team will face four teams that break the NCAA’s top 25 poll: Michigan, Northwestern, Boston University and James Madison. Past history has shown that while Ball State may have not been as successful as anticipated, they have been able to hold their own.
“My coaching staff believes that in order to be the best, you have to play the best,” Longacre said. “Even if that means we need to get beat down a little bit, we learn from and build off each game and take that into our conference games."
The team shared a goal of building off of every game since last season and is eager to achieve it this year.
“We came off a really strong building year last year, so were just trying to keep that momentum going into this season,” Eicher said. “We want to pick up where we left off and do well in the MAC tournament this year.”