SOCCER: Home game a welcome relief for Ball State team
The Daily News
Sitting atop the Mid-American Conference standings with a 7-2-1 (2-0), Ball State fared well on its road trip going 3-1-1, but the team is ready to play a home match again.
“We’re very happy to be back in Muncie, back in our own beds, back on our own turf, and being a lot more comfortable in our settings,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “The home support and the increase in numbers we continually get each game is a huge help for us, the Ball State fans are definitely a 12th man for us and gives us that extra edge.”
MAC East leaders Kent State (6-4, 1-1) and Ohio (5-3-2, 1-1) will pose formidable contests for a Ball State team that has set the pace for the conference through the first half of the season. “We’re really enjoying ourselves,” Roberts said. “When you’re having fun and enjoying yourself, you generally compete better. We’re at the halfway point [of the season] and we still look forward to what we’re doing, and the product is wins.”
The Golden Flashes are 1-3 on the road this year, and Roberts said Kent State’s “postage stamp” sized field garners a few more victories. Because of their normal small field and congested play, Kent State attacks with aerial battles, direct passing, quick counters and creative set pieces — Ohio and Kent State are No. 1 and No. 2 in corners taken in the MAC.
Because of its rate of play, Kent State takes a high volume of shots — second only to Ball State (170) with 162 on the season. Ohio’s offense under first-year head coach Aaron Rodgers operates at a more efficient pace, having scored 17 goals on 148 shots, two more than Ball State and Kent State.
Thirteen of Ohio’s goals have come in the second half, in which they have outscored opponents by nine.
Ball State’s defense has refuted doubts that losing its entire backline would be a cause for concern. Starting three freshmen in the defense, Ball State is 13th in the nation in goals against average at .471 and 20th in shutout percentage, recording six in 10 games.
Senior Layne Schramm and freshman Brooke Dennis have each started five games in goal, and have collaborated for the fourth-best save percentage in the country at .904.
The defense has kept the ball in opponents’ thirds for a majority of games this season, allowing Ball State to incorporate attacks from all over.
“With the goalkeepers and the backline we’ve got, there is no reason not to push forward and attack,” senior Maimee Morris said. “We don’t have a weak area on the field.”