Tatiana Mason and Jenna Dombrowski celebrate after Mason scores a goal, putting the Cardinals in the lead against the University of Nebraska-Omaha Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, at Briner Sports Complex. Ball State went on to defeat Omaha 3-1 with all goals being scored in the second half of the game. Eric Pritchett, DN File
Ball State Soccer ambitious for more heading into season
Editor's note: In a previous version, it was listed that six freshmen came into the program this season. All six players were not freshman and has since been corrected.
“There’s a fuel, there’s a focus, [and] there’s a desire to do something special.”
That’s how head coach Josh Rife described his team’s outlook heading into the 2019 season. Falling to Bowling Green last season in the Mid-American Conference Championship game, a mix of veterans and rookies take the field this season with high expectations.
Ball State Soccer schedule
Aug. 23 - vs. Eastern Illinois
Aug. 25 - vs. Marquette
Aug. 29 - vs. Illinois State
Sep.1 - vs. Loyola Chicago
Sep. 6 - @ Omaha
Sep.13 - @ Florida Atlantic
Sep. 15 - @ Florida Gulf Coast
Sep. 20 - vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
Sep. 27 - vs. Central Michigan *
Sep. 29 - vs. Eastern Michigan*
Oct. 4 - @ Akron*
Oct. 6 - @ Buffalo*
Oct. 10 - vs. Northern Illinois*
Oct. 13 - @ Western Michigan*
Oct. 18 - @ Toledo*
Oct. 20 - @ Bowling Green*
Oct. 24 - vs. Kent State*
Oct. 27 - vs. Ohio*
Oct. 31 - @ Miami (Ohio)*
Along with six newcomers, the program welcomed Rife in the offseason as Ball State's fifth head coach. Rife said he knows he has major shoes to fill with former head coach Craig Roberts resigning this past summer, but he is impressed with his team’s chemistry and work ethic.
“As a coach, you’re always feeling a little pessimistic because you’re always looking at things to tweak,” Rife said. “Overall though, I’m excited. I’m happy for this group, and I think they’ve put in a lot of work.”
As an assistant coach at Mississippi State, Rife helped guide the Bulldogs to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance last season. The Cardinals also welcome assistant coach Rich Wall, who most recently spent four seasons coaching the men’s soccer team at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
Sophomore forward Tatiana Mason said Rife’s style of coaching throughout practices has given her a new perspective on different aspects of the game.
“He’ll show us things in practices that I wouldn’t even think of,” Mason said. “We’re putting a little more confidence in our back line to play the ball and connect passes.”
Last season, Mason was a driving force for the Cardinals, leading the team in goals (six) and points (15) to help her earn the MAC Freshman of the Year award. As she begins her sophomore season, Mason said she is eager to build off last year’s success.
“I think it’s just about working with my teammates and putting in the dirty work during practices,” Mason said.
The Cardinals will also rely on experience in the net from goalkeepers graduate student Tristin Stuteville and sophomore Alex Deruvo. Additionally, the Cardinals welcome junior goalkeeper Maitaine Bravo from Navarro Junior College in Coriscana, Texas.
Last season, Stuteville allowed 15 goals through 20 games while posting a 0.71 goals against average, boosting her to an All-MAC Second Team selection.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without all of [my teammates] behind me,” Stuteville said. “I want to see us go all the way this year. I want to see every girl on this team achieve every goal she’s set forth, and we’ve all been open about where we want to go this season.”
The team’s two freshmen, midfielder Tiffani Torres and forward Sam Musick, will also look to make an immediate impact. Musick was a three-time top goal scorer for her club team, Vardar ECNL, while Torres served as team captain for Fraser High School in Clinton Township, Michigan, her senior year.
“It’s really important that we continue to take steps forward,” Rife said. “I know the girls are very excited to chase after another MAC Championship.”
The Cardinals open their regular season with a four-game homestand, beginning this Friday, Aug. 23 against Eastern Illinois at 5 p.m.