Andrew Mishler

As his team enters the fall season, Ball State men's golf coach Mike Fleck has high expectations.

After a successful 2009-10 season, Fleck is retaining all but one player. He has two proven seniors in Eric Steger and Anthony Novak, as well as two talented freshmen in Tyler Merkel and Connor O'Neal.

Fleck said he's ready to see all of his players in action.

"My expectation is for us to put ourselves in a position to compete for a championship in the spring," he said. "If the guys go out and do what we should be doing on a consistent level, we should be successful."

Ball State beat 16 teams in the Dayton Fall Invitational and had two runner-up finishes last fall. Despite some rocky results in the spring, it placed second of 19 teams in April at Indiana's Adidas Hoosier Invitational.

The Cardinals open the season with a trip to the Wolf Run Intercollegiate on Sept. 11 and 12. Fleck has until then to finalize his lineup, which he admits will be a tough one to make.

He said several players, including sophomores Joe Gasser, Alex Stinson and Brodie Williams, improved this summer.

"It's going to be interesting," Fleck said. "We‘ve got to iron out the inconsistencies. There are a lot of guys that we can possibly look to contribute this season, depending on how consistent they are."

Early season inconsistencies can be traced back to 2009 Wolf Run tournament, where the Cardinals placed 13th out of 17 teams.

Steger said the team will make a strong effort this year to avoid a repeat of that early performance.

"The three weeks that we have at school together as a team will be very important to keep our game sharp so we can perform well this fall," Steger said. "We will get off to a better start this year if everyone has been doing their share to get better individually, which I think most people did."

Steger said he realizes he'll be counted on as a team leader this season. It's a sentiment his coach shares.

"He's going to be the cornerstone of our team this year — the No. 1 player," Fleck said. "We're going to hope to get some guys on the same page on what he's done here. He still has a lot to prove, but I know Eric is very driven and always trying to be as good as he can be."

For now, Fleck is looking toward the fall as a time for growth.

"Short term, I want them to come in and get acclimated with what we need to do," Fleck said. "I'm looking for this fall to be successful, pretty competitive and establish some guys that we're going to look toward during the spring season."