It was a gloomy and wet afternoon at the Briner Sports Complex, as the Mountaineers dealt a crucial blow to Ball State on senior day 1-0. With emotions running high, Ball State fought with seven seniors, Emma Hilton, Elyse Horner, Maureen Donegan, Paloma Gomez Rengifo, Rachel Bohn and Hannah Johnston being celebrated as they played their final home game in a Cardinals uniform.
“It has been such a great experience,” senior goaltender Hannah Johnston said. “It is so much bigger than the sport. I think a lot of people look at it as four years of your time then you are done but I think it is so monumental, the people you meet from all across the world and the friendships you make.”
Out of the seven seniors, Ball State had two international players, Spaniard Paloma Gomez Rengifo and South Africa’s Michaela Graney. With both of them walking out with the team for the senior spotlight and having their home country’s flags flown for every home game.
“Obviously it’s tough being so far away from home and my family never being here,” Graney said. “But you can see when I was walking out my team is my family. I just appreciate them so much and it is always nice having my flag right there to keep it in the background for my home and playing for my family.”
With this senior day, this is head coach Caitlin Walsh’s largest senior class and she could not stress enough how impactful this senior group has been to her.
“[This senior class has meant] everything,” Walsh said. “They set the tone and they lead together and so I am proud of them.”
With the loss, the Mountaineers have officially eliminated Ball State from competing in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament this year, marking the second time in three years that the Cardinals will not be in the lineup for the MAC Tournament.
“Overall I thought we still played together as a team,” Walsh said. “From the start, we brought the energy, at the end, we were trying to give them trouble. We were getting opportunities, it just, unfortunately, didn’t go our way.”
Although the pregame festivities brought emotions, the Cardinals still had work to be done on the field as in the first quarter, the Cardinals and Mountaineers remained in an evenly matched battle to start the first.
However, later in the quarter, the Mountaineers scored the first and only goal as sophomore forward and midfielder Lise Boekaar found the back of the cage on a backhand shot that went over goaltender Hannah Johnston’s hand to take the early lead. Ball State had chances to tie the game in the first but was unable to answer.
In the second, things started to get a bit chippy as bodies were flying all over the field, with freshman Grace Klokie serving a green card, and Ball State being more aggressive on the attacking end of the field. However, the Cardinals were unable to put a score on the board to tie the game and the Mountaineers went into the half still up a score on the Cardinals.
To start the second half, Ball State came out on the attack early, as they registered two shots on goal and blanked the Mountaineers on defense, not letting them register a single shot in the quarter. Ball State also had multiple chances to stop Appalachian State’s momentum, but we’re unable to crack the Mountaineer defense. It remained a one-score game with the last 15 minutes to go.
With Ball State needing a spark of momentum, the Mountaineers locked up the Cardinals' attack in the fourth quarter. The 1-0 victory for the Mountaineers also makes it eight straight games where the score has been decided by one goal.
With Ball State officially being out of contention for the MAC Tournament this season, the Cardinals could possibly play spoiler in their last conference game of the season against Miami (OH) who is currently fighting for the number one overall seed in the tournament with Appalachian State.
“We have some great competition still in front of us,” Walsh said. “We got Miami that we would love to put a loss in their column too and so that is the game that we are going to go after… We got a lot of good hockey left to play towards the end of the season and it's really important to finish strong.”
Ball State (6-9, 2-4 MAC) will travel to Louisville, Kentucky. for a non-conference matchup against Queens University of Charlotte (0-14) Oct. 22 at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Dane Massey with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danemassey22.