Only four teams make the Mid-American Conference field hockey tournament, and right now Ball State (6-9, 1-2 MAC) is in that last spot.

Half a game back in the standings is Missouri State (7-8, 1-3 MAC), which hosts the Cardinals Friday at 4 p.m.

“It’s a must-win game, 100 percent," said senior forward Lexi Kavanaugh. "We have to [win].”

MAC Standings (top 4 qualify for tournament)

Kent State 5-0

Miami 3-1

Ohio 3-1

Ball State 1-2


Longwood 1-3 (.5 games back)

Missouri State 1-3 (.5 games back)

Central Michigan 0-4 (1.5 games back)

Ball State hasn't qualified for the MAC Tournament since 2011, the last year every conference member received a berth, but senior midfielder Morgan Nash said she's confident the Cardinals can make it.

“It’s nothing we can’t handle,” Nash said. “For us seniors, we’ve never made it to the tournament before, and it’s definitely been my goal all season. We remember exactly what we have to do on the field and take it one game at a time. We just need to focus on what we have to do right now.”

The Cardinals won their first three games of the season but have gone 3-9 since.

“We’ve had some upsetting losses these past few weeks,” Nash said. “We need to show that we’re still in it and are fighting hard no matter who we’re playing.”

With three games left in the regular season, head coach Christy Longacre said quick starts will be the key to staying in the top four.

“We have to be the ones who come out and score early and often,” she said. “They know if they play together, they can do anything and beat anybody. It’s when they start to have doubts is when they let themselves down. They’re a lot better than they have ever been, and they’re starting to believe that.”

After watching video of their 2-1 loss to Ohio (6-8, 3-1 MAC) and 3-1 loss to La Salle (7-7, 4-2 Atlantic 10), Longacre said the team gained a little confidence but needs to turn that into aggression.

“They thought ‘Wow, we outshot and out-cornered these teams, and we are the better team,’" Longacre said. "We scare ourselves a little when we score, and we go on defensive mode rather than trying to keep scoring.”

Ball State will take on Missouri State at 4 p.m. Oct. 21. The Cardinals return home at 3 p.m. Oct. 23 to play Miami (8-7, 3-1 MAC) for Senior Day and their last home game of the season.