After a season chock-full of near-misses and close calls for the Cardinals, the field hockey team embarked on the Mid-American Conference Tournament last weekend with a hunger to set the record straight.
Head coach Jen "the little general" Halliday worked at honing the team to her liking over the course of the last six months in attempts to change the close-call Cardinals into a MAC championship team. And a MAC championship would have been the ultimate icing on the cake for Halliday and the team, she said.
The tournament in Louisville, Ky., commenced Friday with a bout between No. 5 Ball State and No. 4 Central Michigan -- who defeated the Cardinals 3-0 and 2-1 in regular season play.
With just more than three minutes remaining in the first half Friday, the Cardinals' leading scorer Allison Haynes -- who tallied 12 goals during regular season play -- tipped in the game-winning shot off a pass from Afton Hess. Goalie Susan McDowell's fifth shutout of the season helped the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over Central Michigan and advanced them to semifinal play against first-seeded, and No. 10 in the nation, Ohio, Saturday.
At the end of the first half of Saturday's game, Ball State appeared to have the upper hand on Ohio and held a 11-1 advantage in shots and a 6-0 advantage in corner opportunities.
Strong second-half defense by the Cardinals held the contest to a scoreless draw at the end of regulation play, sending the game into overtime.
Despite the drive to wipe "close-call" from out in front of their name, the Cardinals fell 1-0 to Ohio after 76 minutes of head to head competition. If Ball State would have held Ohio, it would have been the biggest upset in the 10-year history of the MAC Tournament.
"We definitely played two great games this weekend," senior Jen Budney said.
"The loss to Ohio is hard to explain," she said. "Although we lost, it's good to know that we finally came together as a team. It's just too bad that didn't happen earlier in the season."
After the first losing season in 11 years, Halliday and the rest of the coaching staff had an undisputed task at hand when they took over the field hockey program.
But, many of the players agree, the new staff lived up to their expectations.
"I'd give Halliday and the staff an A for what they've done for the team this year," Budney said. "They got to know us not only as players, but as people too. I wouldn't change anything about this season."
With all but two players -- Tracy Beck and Betsy Quigg -- returning, next season "is going to be awesome," Budney said.
The Cardinals ended the season with a 6-13 overall record.