YEAR IN REVIEW: 2016 Sports seasons in review


Ball State ended its season going 1-8 in its last nine games of the season after winning two of its first three. This season included two top-25 opponents in No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 17 Northwestern. While the Cardinals trailed 49-3 at half before losing 56-23 against the Aggies, they held their own against the Wildcats. At the time, Northwestern’s defense was the best in the country, allowing only 16 points in the first three weeks of the season. While Ball State had its opportunity to beat its first ranked team in three years, missed field goals led to the 24-19 loss. From there, Ball State only beat one Mid-American Conference opponent, and none in the West Division.


Ball State won 20 games for the first time since 2009, the year the Cardinals upset Tennessee in the first round. This year, Cardinals finished 22-10 and beat Iowa in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Cardinals finished second in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 13-5 conference record, but were eliminated from the MAC Tournament quarterfinals in Cleveland. For the second season in a row, it was Eastern Michigan that knocked Ball State out of the tournament. Senior guard Nathalie Fontaine also broke Ball State’s career scoring record, ending her career with 2,166 points.


The Cardinals finished the season 21-14, clearing the 20-win benchmark for the first time since 2002. Ball State also reached the Tournament quarterfinals after both reaching and winning a postseason game for the first time since 2002 in the first round of the CIT. The team’s 10-8 Mid-American Conference record was also good enough to tie for first in the MAC West Division, but the Cardinals were knocked out of the MAC Tournament in the first round. Ball State’s 14-win improvement on last season’s 7-23 record was the fourth-largest turnaround in NCAA Division-I men’s basketball.


Two Ball State women’s divers qualified for the NCAA Zone C Championships. Senior Madie Zirzow finished 23rd in the one-meter dive and junior Quinn Bixler finished 35th. As a team, women’s swim and dive finished last out of eight teams in the Mid-American Conference Championships, while men’s swim and dive finished sixth out of seven teams in the men’s MAC Championships. 


The Cardinals finished the season 2-16 and 0-6 in Mid-American Conference play, their 16th consecutive season without a winning record. Christy Longacre spent the 2015 season as an assistant coach but was promoted to head coach in the offseason when Sally Northcroft resigned after one season as Ball State’s head coach.


As a team, Ball State finished in last place at four of its five events during the fall season. While the team didn’t qualify for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, three individuals participated in the meet. Junior Ericka Rinehart led the way for the team with her time of 23:92.2, not far behind her was junior Jordan Timmons at 23:22.7 and sophomore transfer Kitty Tayler with a 24:27.2.


After going 13-16 just a season before, Ball State went 20-9 in its 2016 campaign, while remaining ranked throughout the entire season. The Cardinals won 14 of its first 17 matches of the year, going 2-3 against ranked opponents and sweeping its first run-through of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association during that time period. However, Ball State ended the regular season 5-6 and ended up losing its No. 2 seed in the conference tournament after dropping its final two matches of the season against Lewis and Loyola. While Ball State lost in the quarterfinal match of the MIVA tournament, it still had five players earn All-MIVA accolades.


Ball State finished its season with a sub .500 record in only its second season with Steve Shondell as head coach. While the Cardinals earned a 15-17 record during the season, it didn’t have a problem winning in Worthen Arena, going 10-2 in home matches. The Cardinals earned an 8-8 conference record and earned a No. 6 seed going into the MAC tournament. After winning the first round 3-1 to No. 7 Buffalo, Ball State ended its season with a 3-0 loss against No. 3 Kent State.


Ball State gymnastics finished 6-11 overall and 1-5 in the Mid-American Conference, but set a program record with 195.650 points in its second-place performance in the MAC Championships. Senior Denasiha Christian won her third MAC title in the floor exercise with a career-high score of 9.950 and also won the conference title in the vault. Though the Cardinals did not make the postseason as a team, five Ball State gymnasts competed in the NCAA Regional in Iowa.


Head coach Craig Roberts led Ball State soccer to one of its best seasons in program history. Ball State went 14-3-3 over the course of the season, losing only one of its 11 conference games all year and going undefeated at home. Ball State didn’t score a goal in three games all season, which included its first round loss in the Mid-American Conference tournament against Akron. Outside of the MAC, Ball State handled its own against top-tier programs like LSU and Indiana, tying 1-1 against both. Its only conference loss also came in a double overtime loss to Western Michigan, who would go on to win the tournament. 


Ball State sits at 24-17 overall and is first in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 10-5 conference record. Junior first baseman Caleb Stayton leads the MAC with a .390 batting average and is tied for second in the NCAA with 58 RBIs. Junior right fielder Alex Call is right on his heels with a .387 average and is tied for second in the NCAA with 53 runs scored. These statistics are as of print.


Once again, the Ball State men’s golf team was led by sophomore Johnny Watts, who led the team with his 73.50 average and 3-0 record in match play. He also finished with five top-10 and seven top-20 performances. Ball State had its best match play at the Earl Yestingsmeier Memorial Invitational as the team finished in first of 12 teams. These statistics are as of print.  


Entering the MAC championship, Ball State finished first or second in three of its last four invitationals of the regular season. The Cardinals were led by the offensive performance of junior Allison Lindley and sophomore Morgan Nadaline, who finished 14th and 15th at the conference championships, respectively. This season, the two had combined for nine top-10 and 12 top-20 finishes, more than the rest of the team combined in either category. 


Ball State went 12-11 this season with a 4-3 MAC record. The team went 2-7 on the road, but dominated with a 9-4 record at home. Ball State entered the 2016 MAC Tournament tied for third place with both Binghampton and Buffalo. The No. 1 seed entering the tournament was Western Michigan. 


Ball State led the MAC the entire season, at one point going on a program-best 15-match win streak. It wasn’t until its 3-4 loss against Buffalo when that streak ended. However, the Cardinals entered the conference tournament atop the standings with a 20-3 overall record and a 6-1 record in MAC play.  


After winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament and MAC West Division title last year, the Cardinals are 19-29 and 5-13 in MAC play this season. Ball State has relied heavily on senior pitcher Nicole Steinbach, who is 14-16 with a 3.60 ERA. She has pitched 171.1 innings this season, more than the rest of the pitching staff combined (124.9). These statistics are as of print. 


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