SOCCER: New attacking style getting better results for Ball State

Eight different Cardinals have scored a goal

The Ball State soccer team boasts an up-tempo, attacking style this year, but no one position or player gets all the goal-scoring glory.

The nine goals scored by the Cardinals this season have come from eight players. Senior midfielder Missy Gordon is the only player to put away more than one goal.

Coach Craig Roberts encourages his midfielders and defenders to push up and get involved in the attacking third. Midfielders lead the team in scoring, while defenders have assists on two goals so far.

A concerted effort to press opponents throughout the match has led to Ball State outshooting their opponents by 20 this season.

"We encourage all of our players to take shooting opportunities," Roberts said. "No one is ever going to be reprimanded or yelled at for shooting. Defenders and forwards alike have the same freedom and that approach makes them all have the same mentality about striking the ball when they get in the game."

Ball State's substitution patterns allow for a variety of players to get their chances when in the game. Sixteen players have received playing time in every match this season.

"Not many teams have a broad number of girls who can score and attack," senior forward Jacki Eft said. "It makes us deadly as a team."

When in the game, it is all about controlling the pace and the ball in Roberts' offensive system.

"It is about creating opportunities and opening a team up," Roberts said. "We need to end the possession with a product. You can possess the ball all day and not get a shot off. We always aim to possess the ball with a purpose."

A disadvantage to such a balanced scheme is the lack of a go-to player in the clutch. Who will Ball State turn to when it needs a goal?

Roberts sees things another way, though.

"If I had a preference, I would have a selection of players who can score the ball," Roberts said. "When you have a go-to player, it puts a lot of pressure on them every night. Scouting for opponents makes it easier to defend us if they just have to shut down one person. It lets us be more of a threat with multiple individuals scoring."

Perhaps the biggest key is for players to buy into such an unselfish system. Every Cardinal wants her own opportunities to blast a shot at goal, so the system requires a lot of give and take.

"The team is like a family with everyone working hard and showing dedication," freshman forward Robyn Miley said. "So it doesn't matter who scores as long as we win."

With their 4-2 record matching last season's win total already, sticking to this system has already benefited the improving Cardinals.