Matt McKinney

As Beth Maddox enters her third season as Ball State's field hockey coach, her team is at a crossroads.

Ball State has gone a combined 10-30 in Maddox's two years as coach, but in 2012, it will have a new challenge to deal with - youth.

The Cardinals will welcome six freshmen to the team, and are returning just seven of 2011's squad of 18.

The incoming freshmen for Ball State are: Cameron Daniels, Maddi Elliott, Zen+â-¬e Gadson, Bethany Han, Shelby Henley, Natalie Jardell and Allie White.

Maddox won't have to deal with the youth on her own, though. Earlier in the offseason, she announced former Cardinals field hockey player Gretchen Lulow will join the team as an assistant coach.

Lulow played for the Cardinals in 2007, then from 2009-2011 after being medically redshirted in 2008. She started 52 games over her career, but says the transition from player to coach will be easy.

"[The transition] has kind of already started," Lulow said. "Being a fifth-year senior, I kind of had that responsibility of healing the freshmen and trying to be more of a coach on the field than just a player, because I've been here for so long and we have such a young team."

However, Maddox didn't seem concerned about the youth on her team but said she knows the challenges the team will face.

"When there's transition in coaching staffs, it's always going to be a time frame where you're going to be rebuilding and the team's going to be pretty young, and that just happened to be this year," Maddox said.

The rebuilding project won't be easy for the Cardinals. Ball State scored 31 goals last season.

Only eight of those goals came from players who are still on the team. To repeat last year's offensive output, the Cardinals would have to manufacture 23 goals from players who weren't on the 2011 team.

The team's season was ended by Miami (OH) last season in the Mid-American Conference tournament. Ball State will only have to play the RedHawks once at home this year.

With just two seniors comprising of Ball State's 14 players on the roster this year, many younger players, including freshmen, will get an opportunity for playing time, Maddox said.

"We have a really small roster this year," Maddox said. "So I have no doubt that everybody will get a lot of playing time. ... If I had a magic ball, I would say that everybody is going to play a lot."

However, the two seniors Devon Bell and Marisa Weachter will still be called upon for a leadership role on the team.

"They all have a really big responsibility, and our seniors are excellent at explaining things and breaking things down and making sure that the kids know where they're going to classes and just take care of them in all the ways that an older player should," Maddox said. "With our seniors and our returning players, I have no doubt we'll have great leadership on the team."

Maddox's 2012 goal is simple - to get better every day.