Conor Hockett

When forward Aubrey Hauenstein started the Ball State soccer team's preseason workouts, like many other freshmen, she didn't know what to expect.

Her uncertainty, however, went beyond the adjustment to Division I level soccer - Hauenstein had to get used to playing competitively again.

"It's been a huge adjustment [to the college game]," Hauenstein. "Speed of play is probably the biggest thing. I took about a year off from game-mode, so the preseason was definitely a struggle. I'm just happy to be playing again."

After Hauenstein finished her fall season at Noblesville High School in 2011, she became what is called a trap player.

According to the official Indiana Soccer League rules, during the spring season U-18 teams can have up to three U-19 over age or trapped players on a roster.

Hauenstein said her birthday fell too late to play with a younger club team in the spring and summer.

"I didn't have a team that I could play with," Hauenstein said. "I trained and stuff, but I haven't played an actual game since my high school sectional."

Despite the gap in play, Ball State coach Craig Roberts said there was never a question of Hauenstein's talent. He and his staff had seen her play in club before and Roberts said she is a player for the future.

"Aubrey has been doing outstanding and I've been very pleased with her commitment and dedication," Roberts said. "Game experience is a different thing all together and she's just growing all the time. She's settling in and becoming a lot more consistent."

That consistency led Roberts to start Hauenstein at forward in both games of the Ball State Tournament this past weekend. Her physical play and toughness fighting for possession has made her the only freshman on the roster to start a game this season.

"I've always been a physical player," Hauenstein said. "You've got to be physical at this level to sometimes get what you want. Not necessarily dirty, but it pays off I'd have to say."

It paid off in Sunday's game against Xavier. Hauenstein scored the game-tying goal after refusing to give up on a loose ball in the box.

She's more than just a bruiser out on the field. Hauenstein unleashed two lasers off her dominant left foot in the same game, one deflecting off the cross bar.

Her play is something that's drawn attention from other players on the team as well. Pavla Benyrova, the sophomore defender who assisted on Hauenstein's goal, said she matches up with the freshman in practice sometimes.

Benyrova said Hauenstein is very crafty with her body and hands to get separation from defenders. Her skills are something that Benyrova said will make Hauenstein hard to guard near the box.

"I think she is very strong and that's her advantage against other forwards," Benyrova said. "She doesn't lose many crosses and can even shoot. I think she's very good and has a lot of potential."