Matt McKinney

With this weekend's season-opening games two states away, Ball State field hockey coach Beth Maddox has put a key emphasis on communication at practice this week.

"It's pretty evident that when we are talking to each other, good things happen," Maddox said. "When we get quiet, we struggle a little. Communication's going to be a driving force in our attack, in our defense and in everything that we do this week, and forever, honestly."

The first game of the weekend is Saturday at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., at noon.

Lehigh boasts four 2011 All-Patriot League players: senior Kim Eng, juniors Marie Mignogna and Sierra Segear and sophomore Steph Fratoni.

Maddox said Lehigh coach Stacey Blue is similar to herself in that they are both trying to re-establish themselves.

Helping Maddox re-establish herself will be a team made up partly of 12 freshmen and s
ophomores.

"Each day, you just want to get a little bit more confident in what you're doing and there's a lot to learn and there's a lot to adjust to," Maddox said of the young players' preparation levels. "We're asking a lot of them to step outside of their comfort zone, so it can be very nerve-racking for them."

The second game of the road trip through the Keystone State will be at 1 p.m. Sunday against the defending Patriot League champion, Lafayette University.

"I think that Lafayette is going to be quite a challenge because [coach Andrew Griffiths] has been there for a long time. Andrew's a really good coach and they're a really good team," Maddox said.

Maddox has a history with the Patriot League. She assisted for three seasons until 2010 at Colgate, another Patriot League member.

Lafayette may be a familiar name for Mid-American Conference fans. The Leopards lost to the Bobcats of Ohio in the play-in game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Lafayette won its 10th Patriot League championship in school history in 2011.

"I think it's going to be tough competition, but what better way to start out the year?" Maddox said.