After not having an exhibition match this preseason, the Ball State soccer team's performance in its first game made it feel like a warmup match.
In its 3-1 loss to Marshall last week, Ball State players said they were outmatched physically, a problem the Cardinals rarely have.
"I was talking to coach [Craig Roberts] about [the game against Marshall] and there's honestly not one player that I would be like, 'man, they did a solid job,'" senior Sarah Orisich said. "We all found things we need to improve on."
With a newly humbled attitude, Ball State practiced this week to not only motivate for its game against Northern Kentucky on Friday, but to flush out bad habits on the field.
"I think if we learn from a game and make the same mistakes again the next game, it's something looked at as a weakness," Orisich said. "Once we go over it and review it, we should be getting it. If it's going to happen for three games, even then, it's unacceptable."
Orisich said the focus this week is on perfecting the Cardinals' defensive shape and "finishing, finishing, finishing." Perhaps the experienced midfielder felt it necessary to repeat because scoring goals has been a recurring problem for three years under Roberts.
Roberts has said in the past he has no problem rotating players in games who have had the hot foot in practice that week. It doesn't seem like that will change this season.
"We are each holding ourselves accountable this year," he said. "I think it's fair to put [expectations] on the girls more this year. We're not trying to apply pressure on ourselves, but at the same time, we do know what we're capable of doing. If we don't meet those sights, we'll be thoroughly disappointed and reassess."
The goal this weekend is to have a good showing in the Ball State Tournament hosted at the Briner Sports Complex.
Ball State finishes out play against Xavier on Sunday and Roberts isn't necessarily looking for two wins, just steady improvement as part of the plan he laid out early in the season.
"We set goal standards about what we're trying to do," Roberts said. "We set periods within the season where we should be consistently improving - when we reach the [Mid-American Conference], we want to be peaking. In past seasons, we've done really well early on, but when we reach the MAC, we taper off. We're focused on tailoring that out a bit better this year."