Conor Hockett

The Ball State soccer team's core of 21 returning letter winners and nine seniors have seen about everything the college game has to offer.

But there is one advantage the incoming freshmen have over the experienced upperclassmen in the team's first game-familiarity with grass fields.

In Ball State's first game at Marshall on Friday, the teams will be play on a local high school field while the Thundering Herds' complex is under construction.

While coach Craig Roberts admits the field is no Briner Sports Complex, he said the team has prepared for the different surface conditions.

"We're aware of the (difference in) size of the field and we've also mixed up our training sessons," Roberts said. "We've been training on the Bethel fields, and the football practice grass field. We've tried to mix it up and get ourselves familiar with whatever. We've spoken to the girls about playing in a different environment and in conditions which aren't as privileged as ours."

While many of the Cardinals haven't played much on grass fields since Briner Sports Complex was opened last year, seniors like defender Skylar Chew don't think the adjustment will be too severe.

"We've practiced on grass all week and it looked like we've been playing on it forever," Chew said. "We had to put more pace on the ball, but we got used to that really quickly."

The team will need to get used to game speed very quickly Friday after not playing in any exhibition games during the preseason. Marshall has played one game already, losing to Longwood 2-1 last week.

Despite not playing games since the spring season, Chew said she thinks the long break gives the team energy.

"Preseason was two weeks long without any games," Chews said. "It feels different because we're more ready to play than ever before because we haven't had a game in a really long time."

This is Ball State's third year under Roberts and each one has started off well before the team's fades in the latter half of the season. After finishing 9-9-3 last season, Roberts said all the experience coming back is the key to the consistency that's been missing at the end of seasons.

"We were always on the verge of putting the ball in the back of the net-we played very well," Roberts said. "From this preseason, I feel like we've enhanced our game. It is a lot faster and quicker. The strength and conditioning program did a great job getting the girls stronger this year. I think that's showing our preseason and we'll continue to put that into play."