Two years and zero Mid-American Conference Tournament berths. But the third year has been a charm as the 12-5-2 Cardinal soccer team enter the MAC Tournament with the No. 8 seed against host Ohio, No. 1.
While the Cards barely made the tourney -- occupying the final spot -- the team did more than just roll over and die when the two teams met in the regular season.
Ball State played the regular season MAC Champions into double overtime before Ohio scored to beat the Cards 2-1.
"We're not just happy to be here (at the tournament)," senior Julie Pigozzo said. "We feel we deserve to be here, and we're here to win it, not just try and make the second round."
The Cards will have problems against the 11-8 Bobcats as Ball State was outshot 30-10 in the first game between the two schools.
But the one thing the Cardinals have that Ohio does not is momentum.
While Ohio is coming off a 5-1 defeat to the Indiana Hoosiers, the Cards are in the midst of a four-game unbeaten streak. According to head coach Ron Rainey, the team's experience in overtime will be invaluable in the tournament.
"We haven't played well in overtimes at all," Rainey said of the Cards' 2-4-2 record in overtime games. "But getting the OT win over IPFW (on Saturday) really gave us a lot confidence."
But the Achilles heel for Ball State could be the lack of experience. With Pigozzo being the lone senior -- but only her first year at Ball State -- Rainey said the team is going to have to "step it up" after what he considered Saturday's victory as a sign of vulnerability.
"We really showed our youth," Rainey said. "We had a real emotional game against Central the game before, and we just were not able to come back. We have to be able to overcome that play to our level all the time."
While Pigozzo brings her experience to the game, and the younger players bring speed and defense, Pigozzo said she thinks Ball State has more than a shot at a victory.
"We never lost by more than one goal," Pigozzo said. "This is a very mature team, and we're going to come in and scare a lot of people."