Matt McKinney

After 11 years, former Ball State field hockey coach Karen Fitzpatrick returned to the sideline - this time as a spectator.

Ball State honored Fitzpatrick and other former field hockey players and coaches as a part of its "Alumni Weekend" on Saturday and Sunday.

Fitzpatrick retired in 2001 with a .682 career winning average, including going 129-21 in Mid-American Conference matches.

Under Fitzpatrick, the Cardinals won 16 regular season MAC titles and advanced to four NCAA Championships.

The Ball State crowd was much higher in number this weekend as opposed to previous matches, due to the appearance of alumni Family Weekend.

By comparison, in last week's game against Lindenwood, the attendance at the Briner Sports Complex was 256, according to the box score. On Saturday's game against Missouri State, the attendance was recorded at 504.

Ball State freshman forward Allie White said she felt the larger crowd and its cheers helped boost the team's performance.

"Especially when we'd get corners, then we could hear everyone cheering," White said. "It just made me want to play harder. It was really fun having a bigger crowd and more cheering."

An emotional Fitzpatrick received a bouquet of flowers after Saturday's match.

"Everybody's just so happy," the 11-time MAC Coach of the Year said. "It just brings up so many good memories. You start talking and you start laughing and even the bad stuff becomes good. I think everybody's just really happy to be here and enjoy everything."

Fitzpatrick said the current Ball State coach, Beth Maddox, would be fine despite the rocky years the program has recently endured.

"I think coach Maddox has them on the right track," Fitzpatrick said. "It's gonna take a couple years to get her players in here and develop the program to get it back to the standards it used to be. If she keeps working at it and keeps getting some solid players, hopefully it'll happen."

Despite her impressive record, Fitzpatrick said she keeps out of Maddox's coaching and the field hockey program.

"It's not my program anymore; it's hers," she said.

Despite going 0-2 on the weekend, Maddox was happy to have the former players and coaches back.

"It's absolutely wonderful," Maddox said. "The alumni have been fantastic. They're so supportive. They're excited to be a part of it again."