With just north of a minute played on a bright Sunday afternoon at the Briner Sports Complex, senior Maria Broering fed a corner kick from the southeast corner of the pitch. After a few frantic touches by each side, sophomore Emily Roper found the back of the net with a well-placed strike in the box.
It was only fitting that Broering, a four-year letterwinner for the Cardinals, set Ball State’s direction in its 3-0 triumph over Austin Peay (2-5-1) on Senior Day.
“[It] was awesome just to put it all together in one day,” senior forward Avery Fenchel said. “The things we've done for this program for the past four years, and just to be a part of something, this is special.”
The Cardinals failed to post a first-half goal in each of their past two games, so head coach Josh Rife was satisfied by his squad’s tone-setting score and early execution.
“It's always great to play with the lead,” Rife said. “Again, [it’s a] credit to the group. I do think we can be dangerous on set pieces, and [to] capitalize on a moment like that was great.”
Ball State’s goal in the match’s infancy was followed by Roper’s second goal (56:14) and Fenchel’s score (61:08) – her first goal since her hat trick in the season opener.
Fenchel entered the game with the sixth-most goals (16) in program history and expressed her desire to climb up the record books.
“It's a big motivator for me this year,” Fenchel said. “[But], I just want to win games with my team; that's the first priority. If I'm the one that puts it in the back of the net, then that's good, too.”
Broering’s key feed and Fenchel’s goal were met by a number of contributions by fellow seniors – a group which recorded 20 wins and 11 draws over its four seasons, and was pivotal in the Cardinals’ MAC Tournament championship appearances in 2020 and 2022.
Senior goalkeeper Bethany Moser was a stalwart between the pipes for Ball State, posting a shutout in her 71 minutes of play. Moser’s contributions against the Governors marked another notable outing for the Mason, Ohio, native, as she posted four saves and only let past one goal against Vanderbilt a few days prior.
“I think [I’m] just getting comfortable,” Moser said. “We're playing in a different formation than I'm used to, and we have different players in those spots. So, [we’re] getting all of us used to playing with each other.”
Moser was forced to overcome a pair of injuries to even compete at Senior Day, adding to the sentimental value of her class’ commemoration.
“If you would have asked me two years ago if I would have made it to senior day, I don't know if I would have had a solid answer for you, just because those were really hard,” Moser said.
Though the Ball State seniors’ most visible accomplishments are on the pitch, the fourth-year Cardinals are also acclaimed for their off-the-field accolades – with Academic All-MAC awards scattered around the group. Broering even earned a spot on the university’s Top 100 Students list.
Rife looks to build an academic-focused culture, emphasizing the importance of “getting it done in the classroom.” He added that although some players have goals to play beyond the collegiate level, Ball State hopes to prepare its athletes for the rest of their lives outside of the sport as much as in it.
The Cardinals’ Senior Day triumph marked their second home win in as many games this season. Fenchel expressed her gratitude for the Muncie faithful and discussed the benefits of a home outing.
“We had a really good showing today – a lot of fans,” Fenchel said. “I think just being at home, even that preparation before the game, you can get what you need done. [You’re] not constantly traveling and [don’t] have bus legs.”
Ball State (2-4) looks to capitalize on its momentum in its upcoming road matchup with Butler (2-4-1) Thursday, Sept. 14. In the Cardinals’ final outing of the non-conference slate, Rife is looking to grow once Mid-American Conference play comes around.
“It'll never probably never be perfect, but can we continue to get a little bit better, and a little bit better, a little bit better?” coach Rife said. “Then, all of a sudden, you're rolling into conference play, [and] you feel like you've been tested, and hopefully you're sharp.”
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