Ball State senior Jasmin Samz pushes through the defense of the Eagles during the Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan Women’s Basketball game Feb. 7 in Worthen Arena. The cardinals lost their season opener to Purdue 80-38. Carlee Ellison, DN
Women's basketball: An upward trajectory
Editor's note: In honor of the university's centennial year, The Daily News is counting down 100 days to the university's celebration Sept. 6 with 100 of Ball State's most famous traditions and figures. Check back each day to read about Cardinal history.
Ball State women’s basketball has found its most consistent period of success over the past two decades.
Founded in 1974, the program only amassed four winning seasons before the turn of the century. Since the 1999-2000 season, though, it has put together 14 seasons over .500.
The best season in the program’s history saw it reach a record of 26-9 overall and 14-2 in Mid-American Conference play under former head coach Kelly Packard. That same year, the Cardinals won their only MAC Tournament Championship to earn their lone NCAA Tournament berth. Ball State entered the tournament as a No. 12 seed and upset No. 5 seed Tennessee with a decisive 71-55 victory. In its next game, it was on the wrong end of a similar score, falling 71-57 to Iowa State, ending its most successful season.
Three straight losing seasons followed.
Then, current head coach Brady Sallee took the reigns and has since led a resurgence. His teams have put together six consecutive winning seasons — the longest stretch of sustained success the program has seen — and most recently went 25-7 overall during the 2017-18 season for the second-highest win total in program history. During that season, Sallee guided his team to an 11-0 non-conference regular season record, the only time the program has finished its non-conference schedule with an undefeated mark. Sallee will enter his next season at the helm just 10 wins shy of tying Tracy Roller (2001-08) as the winningest head coach (118 wins) in program history.
Through 43 years, the women’s basketball program holds an all-time overall record of 548-636. The Cardinals have won six MAC West Division Championships and sit at 286-327 all-time in conference play.
Nathalie Fontaine (2012-16) left her mark on the program in her four years on the hardwood. The Stockholm, Sweden, native is the program’s career leader in points (2,166), minutes played (4,358), games started and played (130), field goal attempts (1,648) and free throws made (539). Despite playing a guard position in the backcourt, Fontaine is third in school history with 985 rebounds, trailing only Jessica Reiter (993) and Emma Jones (1,028) for the top spot. She finished her career just one basket shy of the program record for field goals made, sinking 805 shots. Tamara Bowie (2000-03) holds the throne in that category with 806 buckets.
The Cardinals are moving in the right direction, and they will continue their quest to get back to the Big Dance when the 2018-19 season gets underway.