WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ball State opens regular season tonight

Cardinals looking for new identity against Rebirds

It has been emphasized over and over: last season is in the past, and Ball State is looking to form a new identity in 2011. Its first test comes tonight against Illinois State.

Coach Kelly Packard, who is entering her fourth season as the Cardinals' coach, is optimistic about her young team.

"We've grown up," Packard said. "[Last year's] freshmen played some substantial minutes, and you could see some of the growth in the exhibition game."

The Cardinals won Thursday's exhibition game against Saint Joseph 82-50, and Packard saw a completely revamped team, particularly one of her young guards.

"Brandy Woody doesn't look like the same player," Packard said. "She made a statement on Thursday. She had 11 assists and two turnovers. Those aren't the numbers we saw last year. That's a phenomenal number, a huge statement about her growth."

A pair of freshmen who got the nod on Thursday night will be in the starting lineup tonight against Illinois State University.

Guards Brittany Carter and Shelbie Justice have shown significant growth throughout practice, and Packard said she hopes the two newcomers can have an impact on her team.

"[They] led us in scoring in our exhibition game," Packard said. "The team identity that we're forming this year is in now way attached to last year's identity."

Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in John E. Worthen Arena.