Conor Hockett

In last weekend's Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Classic in Honolulu, the Ball State soccer team played its two toughest opponents yet this season.

The team tied both Hawai'i and Detroit 1-1, results coach Craig Roberts said he was very pleased with.

When Ball State hosts Butler on Sunday, the Cardinals play a team arguably good enough to round out the top-three hardest non-conference games of the season.

"I would put Detroit and Hawai'i in that top bunch, but Butler will definitely be in the top contenders we've played this season," Roberts said. "Some of the other teams have brought a lot more offensive power than perhaps Butler has. They are not the elite, but they aren't the bottom either."

Unlike the constant scoring threat posed by Hawai'i and Detroit, Butler plays at a more methodical pace.

"They are a low pressure, more counter attack type of team," Roberts said. "They will catch you if you sleep for two seconds. They're very organized at the back and strong defensively. They haven't been broken down too many times."

The Bulldogs conservative approach was different enough to make Roberts change up his whole formation for Sunday's game.

Senior defender Amanda Dreyfus said the Cardinals will be running a 3-5-2 with sophomore defender Pavla Benyrova moving from her position in the back up to midfield.

"We'll only play three in the back, because a lot of teams have been taking advantage of them playing that system," Dreyfus said. "I know we might try that."

Roberts said it's not that significant of a change, because Ball State played all last season with only three defenders in the back of its formation. Benyrova's ability to play multiple positions made the transition much easier.

While Butler doesn't score a lot, eight goals in eight games, the team is capable of beating anyone. The Bulldogs 4-3-1 record includes a 1-0 win at Purdue.

For the first time since the season-opener, Ball State played only one game this weekend. Roberts said the team needed a break after all the travel over different time zones.

"It was important to have the schedule this way for us," Roberts said. "Coming back from Hawai'i, that took a day just to recover. It allowed the girls to get, not only their bodies relaxed but mentally get in tune. It allowed them a week to recuperate and not have to worry about a game on Friday."

The Cardinals lone game this weekend is their last before Mid-American Conference play starts in less than a week.

All season long, Roberts said he wanted the team to be peaking right when conference play starts. Past results aside, Roberts said the game against Butler will show what kinds of results to expect come postseason.

"I was very pleased with the performances this past weekend against Detroit and Hawai'i," Roberts said. "We played some of the best we've played all season. Sunday will show us where we truly are."