Eleven games decided by one game. Win or lose, the women's soccer team has not had blowout in any of its Mid-American Conference games.
The team faces possibly the most important game in the program's three years.
A win against Bowling Green Thursday would mean the Cardinals first bid into the MAC Tournament. The win would move the 4-5-2 Cardinals one point ahead of the 5-6-1 Toledo Rockets, who have finished their MAC schedule and can only watch as the Cards decide the fate of the tournament.
"Biggest game of the year, must-win, all those things are true," head coach Ron Rainey said. "But we're more excited about having the opportunity to be the game in the MAC that everyone is looking to see what happens."
Rainey said the key for the Cardinals to prevail over the Falcons Thursday will be controlling the tempo, and taking care of the ball when the situation arises. Also, Rainey said the team can not afford to start the game off poorly, like it did against Central Michigan Sunday when the Cards won 2-1.
"We have to be ready from the start," Rainey said. "At the end of 90 minutes there is going to be a result. But we're trying to focus on that process of being in the moment at the beginning of the game. And if we can stay pretty focused through the whole game, we should be excited no matter what the result is."
But going into a such an important game, the freshman-laden Cardinals lack experience in this type of situation. The lone senior, first-year player Julie Pigozzo, is the team's leading scorer and has provided leadership for the young team.
"I'm just trying to do my job in my position," Pigozzo said. "I don't know how everyone looks at me, coming in as a first-year player. I just try to help when I can, but not act like I know everything, because I won't have their respect."
With Toledo's schedule done, Rainey said he likes not having to worry about what else is going on in the league.
"We can focus in on Bowling Green ourselves, and then focus in on the opponent," Rainey said. "We don't have the added distraction of worrying about what other teams are doing. We just have to win."
Rainey said the team's game plan is simple: mental preparation and finishing plays. Nonetheless, a win and the Cardinals keep playing, lose and they go home for the year.
"Of course we want to get a win, we want to get to our tournament," Rainey said. "But with our team, it's way more important with the process of how we prepare and how we go into the game is sound fundamentally, and the results will take care of themselves."