After its loss to IUPUI on Friday, Ball State coach Craig Roberts said his frustration was at an all-time high with his team's lack of finishing.
The Ball State soccer team's 1-0 win over IPFW on Sunday helped ease the scoring woes for Roberts but didn't get rid of them.
"I'm still not happy with the finishing," Roberts said. "The fact that we got a win against one of the best IPFW teams I've seen in years, it's good. But I felt we could have had more than one goal."
For much of the first half, the Cardinals mimicked the rainy and sluggish weather in play. It wasn't until forwards Nicole Pembleton and Paige Stroinski came in that things changed.
Often two of the first subs off the bench, Pembleton, a sophomore, and Stroinski, a senior, play together frequently and seem to be finding each other's rhythms.
"We've been working on our communication, and today, I thought we played really well together," Stroinski said. "We balance well because she's really fast. If she stays up top, and I stay underneath her a little bit, I can distribute the ball to her, and she can run on."
That's exactly what happened in the 34th minute of the game. Pembleton got a pass from senior midfielder Sarah Orisich and dribbled to the right side of the six-yard box. She swung in a pass to the trailing Stroinski, who kicked, then kneed the ball in for a goal.
"Since it's raining, the ball is obviously going to skip a lot," Stroinski said. "Crashing the net was [a] big thing. I kind of just ran in, and it hit my foot, then my body and went in."
It wasn't the prettiest goal, but it was the first time the Cardinals have scored in the first half this season.
The early offense was something different for Ball State, so defending with the lead became a focus.
Ball State held off IPFW pretty handily until the second half. The Mastodons started attacking and winning free kicks and corners. Dangerous crosses forced the Cardinals' senior goalkeeper Aubrey Buehler off her line for an open net, but the Mastodons couldn't capitalize.
Roberts pinpointed one player in particular who kept the defense strong in the back.
"I thought it was one of the best performances of the season, so far, from Brigit Reder," Roberts said. "I felt they had a fast player who was going down the right side attacking [defender] Amanda Dreyfus. But the coverage in the middle was much improved."
Reder, a first-team preseason All-Mid-American Conference selection by College Sports Madness, used her physical presence to hunt down balls and head them away from the goal.
After having offseason hip surgery, Reder seemed to move better sideline to sideline Sunday, covering balls swung ahead by IPFW. Roberts said she's gaining her old form back and thinks she will be peaking by MAC Tournament time.
However, in terms of the Sunday's performance, Roberts said he hopes his team continues to build towards the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Classic throughout this week of practice.
The tournament, held in Honolulu, starts this weekend. Ball State plays Hawaii on Friday and Detroit on Saturday.
Roberts said Sunday's game was much like a tryout. Twenty-one different Cardinals saw action to determine the players Roberts would take on his 20-player roster to Hawaii.
For players like Stroinski, however, Sunday's game was more about getting back to the soccer Ball State wants to play far beyond the tournament this weekend.
"We knew what happened on Friday [against IUPUI] wasn't what we're about as a team," Stroinski said. "We re-evaluated what we need to better at and came out here and focused on those things. It was a good measure for us because [IPFW has] a good schedule. It was a good win."