Ball State field hockey will return home this weekend when it hosts its first Mid-American Conference foe Kent State on Friday. It will close out the weekend on Sunday when No. 10 Northwestern comes to town.
“This past month was definitely a learning month,” Ball State head coach Christy Longacre said. “We’ve learned in every game that even if our opposition is a top team, we can still compete. A couple years ago we had trouble even getting over our own 50 against top teams and this year, we have learned to stay competitive with these top teams.”
Ball State's (4-6) match against Kent State (4-9, 1-1 MAC) will be its first home match since the end of August. With only two games on their home turf, the Cardinals have recorded victories in both matches, along with their largest margins of victory averaging a four-goal difference.
“I think we play a lot more comfortably at home,” senior Merinda Morley said. “We’re obviously more comfortable at home with our fans and there’s just overall a good vibe. It’s going to be exciting to return.”
After facing higher opposition throughout September, the Cardinals have worked on the defensive end. According to Longacre, the team's defense is prepared as it enters the second half of the season.
“This is the time of the season that really counts and matters,” Longacre said. “I think playing those top teams has allowed us to see everything. We’ve seen speed, we’ve seen skill, we’ve seen some really hard shots and there really isn’t anything we haven’t seen. We are ready for anything and everything.”
Playing through the entire 70 minutes of the game has been a major focus for the Cardinals. With the exception of last week’s game vs. No. 4 Michigan, Ball State has hung with teams throughout the entirety of the game until the last minutes.
“We need to be solid and play that full 70 minutes in order to be successful this season,” Morley said. “If we can do that, we can do it all.”
The Golden Flashes are coming off a two-game losing streak against No. 4 Penn State and Miami of Ohio. Both Ball State and Kent State recorded wins over Saint Francis and Saint Louis this season.
Northwestern (8-4, 3-1 Big Ten) is on a two-game winning streak after defeating No. 17 Maryland and No. 20 Rutgers, both Big Ten opponents. Northwestern will take on Indiana on Friday before coming to Muncie.
“We have to look at it one game at a time,” Longacre said. “I think our conference play is going to be tough, but if we can play the way we can play, we’re going to be in every game.”