When Laura Malinoski signed her National Letter of Intent to play for Ball State, she knew it wasn't going to be an easy transition.

Malinoski is one of 10 freshmen on the field hockey team. She's also one of seven newcomers who have started at least eight games for Ball State this season.

Not only is she playing, but she's also earned a starting role. That role as back-fielder is one that has become a key to the Cardinals' offense.

"I really had no idea whether I'd be playing, starting or on the bench," Malinoski said.

Whenever the Cardinals are rewarded a penalty corner, Malinoski is the center of attention. First, she grabs a water bottle and waters down the spot where she will place the ball. Then she gets into position, narrowing her focus in order to hit the perfect pass to her teammates at the top of the circle.

Her strategy has worked to perfection on multiple of occasions for Ball State. Malinoski contributed a key goal in the Cardinals' 3-2 victory over MAC rival Missouri State on Sunday.

She capitalized on one of Ball State's 17 penalty corner kicks against the Bears. After placing the ball to the top of the circle, Malinoski received the ball and scored from a tough angle.

In addition, Malinoski has scored two goals in two games against Miami and both scores came in similar fashion.

"I scored on the same corner last game against Miami, so it was exciting," Malinoski said. "We knew that corner worked well, so we executed it and we scored."

On Oct. 5 versus Miami, Ball State received a penalty corner. Malinoski set up near the RedHawks' goal, passed the ball and then sprinted toward the front of the cage. After a pair of passes, the ball was heading toward Malinoski's stick before tipping it in.

"I don't know what happened," Malinoski said. "I passed it up and somebody tipped it, but it was going out of bounds. I don't think it was supposed to happen that way, but that's where I'm supposed to be. It was a different angle than I'm used to. I'm [usually] not as close to the goal. This time I was a little bit closer. It worked out well."

Her position as back-fielder requires a great deal of focus and hours of practice. Malinoski must make sure to get a clean pass off or else the play will result in a missed opportunity or a turnover.

Another aspect of Malinoski's game is her work ethic.

She said she wants to work as hard as possible for the team.

"Honestly, my attitude going into [the season] was just to work hard, try hard and see what happens," Malinoski said.

Her hard work has paid off. She's emerged as a secret weapon for the Cardinals this season, tied for the second most goals on the team with three and third in points with eight.

This season hasn't gone exactly how Malinoski envisioned. She, along with the rest of the freshmen, have been hampered by growing pains.

After the first six games, the Cardinals were winless and Malinoski acknowledged she wasn't used to losing.

"A lot of us freshmen, we came from really good high schools, where we won state, sectionals or divisions," Malinoski said. "Then we came here and it's hard, but we knew what we were coming into."

Despite the slow start, Malinoski remains optimistic about the rest of the season.

"We're working harder," Malinoski said. "We struggled at the beginning of the season, but I think we're over that. We're tired of losing."