SOCCER: Ball State plays first home tournament in more than 10 years

New complex has opened new opportunities for Cardinals soccer program

Grass monsters tripping people randomly, pools of water so deep the ball wouldn't move - Sarah Orisich remembers it well.

Bad memories of the old Ball State Soccer Field still sit in the minds of older members of the soccer team.

When Ball State hosts its first tournament in more than 10 years this weekend, both coaches and players know it might not have been without the opening of the Briner Sports Complex in 2011.

The complex, which cost $1.7 million to build, is 10.4 acres and houses a soccer field, a field hockey field, throw and field areas for track and various scoreboards and booths.

Although it sits farthest from the gated entryway, the soccer field is arguably the gem of the complex. Coach Craig Roberts said its turf field was the biggest draw in bringing the Ball State Tournament to Muncie.

"I think it would have been a little more challenging to do with the playing surface out there [at the old field]," Roberts said. "As long as teams know we have an all-weather surface here, and it's [a] nice facility to play soccer, it lets us attract a few teams to come in."

After Ball State participated in the Western Kentucky Tournament last season, Roberts said it was a mutual exchange between different regional coaches to hold another tournament elsewhere the following year.

"Traveling for [a] single game can be expensive," Roberts said. "[Holding a tournament] allows everybody to budget their expenses a little bit better."

The three other teams in the tournament are Northern Kentucky, Western Kentucky and Xavier. Ball State plays Northern Kentucky at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Xavier at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

For upperclassmen like Orisich, who played through the adverse conditions at the old field, it is a great opportunity to show how far the university has come.

"It's a great way to promote this field and the facilities we have," the senior midfielder said. "To have these other teams come in and see what Ball State is about - not only as a soccer team, but as a university, it's super exciting."

Finished before the start of the 2011 season, the turf soccer field is something that drew more than opposing teams to Muncie; it brought Roberts as well.

"It was something I was informed would be done within the year [when I was hired]," Roberts said. "It was definitely something I took into consideration when I took the job."

The move to the Briner Sports Complex's turf field paid dividends in the very first season.

During the 2010 season, Roberts' first at Ball State, former players Jacki Eft and Robyn Miley suffered severe leg injuries playing on the bumpy surface at the old BSU Soccer Field.

Since switching to the turf field at Briner Sports Complex before the 2011 season, Roberts said there hasn't been a significant injury suffered on the home field.

The turf is something that excites both coaches and players.

"I think this is one of the best fields in the MAC, if not the best," Orisich said. "Just the location around it [is amazing]. There are some at the bigger schools that will be better because of funding, but I think our field is pretty top-notch."

While the money for the complex was donated to Ball State by Ken and Peggy Briner, other remodeling around the soccer program was done within the team.

Roberts said the team did independent fundraising to give themselves a little something extra. The Cardinals have held car washes, merchandise sales, youth camps and also sent letters to friends and family outside Muncie asking for donations.

Since he took over in 2010, the team has gotten its only locker room separate from the football stadium and fitted it with graphics along the walls. The team also raised enough money to be part of the Outriggers Hotels and Resorts Classic held in Hawaii in early September.

"Regarding funds that have been allocated to us, we've managed with what we had," Roberts said. "But it's like anything - if you want nicer things you can [raise funds] and add those icings."

Those icings also include specific toppings to the team's wardrobe.

"With the fundraising we've done and the more professional direction in the funding that we get [from Ball State], we've been able to fit the girls out appropriately with more uniforms like practice jerseys and stuff," Roberts said.

Players seem to love their new facility and the improvements to the soccer program. There is just one more thing on Roberts' list to add.

"I think it would be nice to have lights out here for night games," Roberts said. "I think a lot of the student body would come out to some of the games if they were in the evening. Apart from that, there isn't anything much else [to add]. What we've got right now, it's great."


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