Senior forward Nicole Pembleton runs after the ball during the soccer game against Morehead State on Aug. 31 at the Briner Sports Complex. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
SOCCER: Team looks to improve on runner-up finish last season
Last weekend, Ball State clinched a spot in the Mid-American Conference tournament and now have one more regular season match before the tournament starts on Nov. 2. This is the fourth consecutive season that coach Craig Roberts’s squad has made it to the tournament, and last year's team had the best finish in school history, making it all the way to the MAC championship match.
The Cardinals fell just short in the championship, and many of the players said they have not forgotten that feeling.
"It was heartbreaking for us to go farther than any team in our school history and then just fall short," senior Cailey Starck said.
Twenty players returned from the runner-up season, looking to return to the championship match. Those players can use the feeling and the experience they took from the title match loss and use it as an advantage.
"We want to repeat what we did last year, and now we have a drive to be the team that goes farther than any in team history and win the [MAC] championship," Starck said.
Although the team is looking forward to the tournament, Ball State's next challenge is the last regular season game, where they will take on Miami (Ohio).
The Redhawks hold the second-best record in the MAC. In the same situation last year, Miami beat Ball State and pushed them back to the sixth seed in the tournament.
"Miami is a really athletic team, so I've really been working hard with the girls this week to prepare them for competing with that kind of a match," Roberts said.
The match will also make a difference where the Cardinals will be seeded. Ball State is tied with Eastern Michigan at the top of the West Division, but the Eagles own the tiebreaker, meaning the Cardinals need a win and an Eastern Michigan loss in order to win the West Division outright.
"We are going into this game like it's a normal game," Roberts said. "We know this game carries weight going into the tournament but we aren't going to treat it as something special."
If the Cardinals were to go on to win the MAC tournament, that would give them the chance to enter the NCAA tournament, something that Ball State has never done before.
The Cardinals will close the regular season on today before looking ahead to tournament play.
"We try not to look far into the future, we try to take everything step-by-step and game-by-game," senior Victoria Jacobs said.