SOCCER: Ball State player more than just a defender
Benyrova is consistent force Cardinal attack
After arguably being Ball State's most consistent player all season, sophomore defender Pavla Benyrova got some well-deserved recognition from the league office Monday.
The Mid-American Conference selected Benyrova as the MAC Defensive Player of the Week for her performances over the weekend, but the award is just a microcosm of her play throughout the season.
"[MAC officials] take into account goals scored and assists to see what contribution [players] had in the games," coach Craig Roberts said. "She obviously had an impact in both games and has done so the last couple weeks. I think it was just time coming with that."
Benyrova scored a game-winning penalty kick against Buffalo on Friday and added an assist in Ball State's win against Akron on Sunday.
Her success isn't unexpected after 31 consecutive starts, but the former Czech Republic National team member did have a new country and game to get used to.
"I think I feel more comfortable this year than I did last year," Benyrova said. "The soccer in Europe is so different. Here, the soccer is more based on running and long passes. At home, it's more like a contact sport and better foot skills are required."
Benyrova has shown off her dribbling ability while knifing through defenses all season long. Seemingly every time she makes an attacking move up the right sideline, good things happen.
As was the case Sunday, when Benyrova's cross to Kalynn Flanagan at the far post led to Ball State's first goal less than three minutes into the game.
"[Pushing up] is more based on which formation we play," Benyrova said. "If opponents play 4-4-3, then I have more space to go up. Some forwards push back, so it depends, but I just look for free spaces. I think coach tries to stop and tell me to be more responsible and stay back, but I want to play, so I go up."
Roberts said Benyrova's understanding of the game gives her certain leeway to advance the ball at times, but she needs to stay within the defensive scheme.
His stipulation isn't because Benyrova gets out of position, it's because she has also been one of the best defensive players on the team.
"She reads the game very well on when to make challenges," Roberts said. "She's a person who looks to be very tight on marks and can make the steal when she needs to."
Those opportunistic steals often lead to Benyrova's breakaways.
With her latest statistics over the weekend, the youngest player on the backline now leads the team in assists with three, and is second in points with five, respectively.
While Benyrova's counterattacks often lead to good chances for the team, she is reluctant to shoot at times. As talented as she is, Benyrova's best quality may be her unselfishness.
"I think I would rather pass the ball then score," Benyrova said. "It always makes me more happy."