Women's wins: Ball State’s women-only sports are empowering and bringing student-athletes closer

Sophomore Victoria Henry performs her vault routine as her teammates watch Jan. 23 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost to Kent State 194.800-194.875. Rylan Capper, DN
Sophomore Victoria Henry performs her vault routine as her teammates watch Jan. 23 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost to Kent State 194.800-194.875. Rylan Capper, DN

For more than two decades, soccer at Ball State was limited to men only. From 1961-82, men competed on the field, and every passionate female soccer player watched from the sideline. It wasn’t until 1999 that Ball State added women’s soccer as an intercollegiate sport.

Now, Ball State only has one university-sponsored soccer team, and women rule the sport.

“Being the only soccer team that people are able to watch at Ball State is unique because most people only watch Men’s sports,” senior midfielder Sammi Corcoran said.

Ball State and its 18 athletic programs compete in Division I of the NCAA, and the university has five programs open exclusively to women — cross country, field hockey, gymnastics, soccer and track and field.

While there are teams like this on campus today, they weren’t always offered despite the fact that athletics have existed at Ball State since Orville Sink was appointed the first athletic director of then-Indiana State Normal School in 1918. 

It wasn’t until 1960 that Ball State opened the doors of intercollegiate sports to women, starting with basketball and field hockey. From 1983-99, Ball State Field Hockey won 16 MAC regular season championships, nine MAC Tournament championships and registered four NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Gymnastics was introduced as an intercollegiate sport for women in 1965 and has always been exclusive to women at Ball State. Sophomore gymnast Victoria Henry grew up in Woodbridge, Virginia, competing with girls and boys for Apollo Gymnastics. Because Henry said she participated with boys throughout her career prior to Ball State, she experienced a change in scenery when she joined the Cardinals. 

Competing as part of a women’s only team at Ball State, Henry said the gymnasts do not take for granted the opportunity to unite and represent Ball State in a distinct spotlight.

Senior Sammi Corcoran goes for the ball against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 23, 2021 at Briner Sports Complex in Muncie, IN. Amber Pietz, DN

“It’s really nice that it is just an all-girls team and that we can just represent something like that together, as one,” Henry said. 

Over the years, Ball State Gymnastics secured a MAC Championship in 2002 and appeared in the NCAA Regional Championships in 1999. In 2021, four Ball State gymnasts competed in the NCAA Regional Championship, and the Cardinals achieved a program record for best team score with 196.325 points against Eastern Michigan on Feb. 20, 2022

Although the NCAA didn’t recognize track and field as a championship sport until it held the first-ever outdoor national championships for women in 1982, Ball State Track and Field originated as an intercollegiate sport in 1968 as a member of the now-defunct Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, a type of governing body for intercollegiate women’s sports from 1971-1982 and one of the various other governing bodies that oversaw intercollegiate women’s sports since first being recognized across the country in 1941.

In 1996, the Cardinals captured their first indoor and outdoor MAC championships in track and field. Ball State won indoor and outdoor MAC championships in 1998 and 2001, along with an outdoor MAC championship in 2000. 

Freshman jumper McKenna Cinotte said despite having a smaller roster size than other teams, Ball State Track and Field thrives off its camaraderie and togetherness.

“It’s an honor to be able to represent Ball State on the track and field team,” Cinotte said. “With it being a smaller team, we’re so close, and we’ve been able to come together and represent Ball State the best we can.”

Cinotte attributes positivity and selflessness as traits Ball State Track and Field use to represent themselves and the university.

“We’re such a positive and impactful team, not just to each other, but to the school,” Cinotte said. “We want to be there for everyone and impact as many people as possible.” 

Ball State Cross Country is another women's-only sport. After its recognition as an intercollegiate sport in 1979, the Cardinals have gone on to capture a MAC championship in 2003 and send numerous runners like Jill Scully, Crystal Meeks and Sarah Huddleston to the NCAA Regional meets. 

Despite the success these five programs have had, the student-athletes said they do not feel pressure or negativity from the community to achieve even more.

“I’ve never seen any negative feedback,” Henry said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure with us being the only gymnastics team [at Ball State].” 

Contact Corbin Hubert with comments at cchubert@bsu.edu or on Twitter @corbin_hubert_.


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