BY MICK TIDROW | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
- Ball State improved to 10-2-2 and 5-0-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
- The Cardinals host Bowling Green at 4 p.m. Friday and Toledo at 2 p.m. Sunday.
- You can watch the Friday and Sunday matches on ESPN3 with Mick Tidrow, Connor Onion and Alex Thomas on the call.
- Follow @bsusportslink on social media for gameday coverage and access.
There is much to be said about the Ball State Women’s soccer team and it is all positive.
A team picked to finish first in the Mid-American Conference Western Division, Ball State (10-2-2) has lived up to the bill. The Cardinals compiled 11 of the 12 first-place votes to win the West.
Preseason polls are one thing, but once the regular season rolls around, high expectations come with results. Ball State has done nothing but produce and exceed those exceptions with success this year.
Success comes from learning from mistakes, and head coach Craig Roberts has been impressed with his team’s ability to learn from their mistakes.
Roberts earned the 70th win of his Ball State career Sunday. He tied Ron Rainey, the program’s first coach from 1999-2005, for the most wins in program history.
“The team has been excellent in carrying out the game plan,” Roberts said. “We have self-reflected as a team and continued to educate ourselves on perhaps what we did not do as well.”
Because of this, the defense has responded each match. In seven of its last eight matches, Ball State has not allowed a goal. A main factor is the outstanding play of the two-goalie system in Alyssa Heintschel and Tristin Stuteville.
Heintschel has started nine matches, while Stuteville has five starts.
Versatility is an important piece to Ball State’s success. The team has more versatile players on its roster than it can count.
With two important matches on tap this week against Bowling Green and Toledo, versatility is set to take center stage.
Here is what to watch for this week with Ball State Soccer.
Match in and match out, Gaby Veldman, Leah Mattingly and Lorina White have formed a formidable back line and midfield that has the potential to score at any moment.
But it is their defense that plays the biggest factor. Opposing offenses have been scratching their heads for the last several years because of the trio of Ball State stoppers.
If Ball State continues the pressure on both opponents and lets the offense go to work, it could be a long match for the visitors.
Once Ball State gets out in open space, it is nearly impossible to stop the offense. Lauren Roll and Sam Kambol possess dashing speed nearly unmatched by the rest of the players on the pitch.
Kambol has four goals off the bench with one assist. She has been called upon to provide a spark, as she did against Western Michigan last week.
A scoreless match until the 34 minute, Kambol notched an assist on her pass to Emily Scott which gave the Cardinals the lead to pull away from the Broncos.
Kambol nearly had a goal in the match, but came up just short as the ball flew over the goal.
She also tallied the first goal Sunday on the road against Northern Illinois.
Roberts has been nothing but impressed from the production Kambol has provided the team this year as a freshman.
“She’s put in some excellent work as a great athlete,” Roberts said. “She’s growing everyday, which is exciting for our team.”
Ball State’s ability to play in open space is as good as anyone in the MAC, and it looms large against teams on the upcoming schedule.
Shots on Goal Differential
Teams have not been able to get past the teeth of the Ball State defense, and it has created mismatches on attempts to get shots on goal.
Ball State has 94 shots on goals, while allowing a meager 54 on the season. Ball State has 24 goals following Sunday’s win at Northern Illinois. In contrast, when opponents finally get past the formidable back line of Ball State, Heintschel and Stuteville have given up just nine goals.
The offense for Ball State averages 16 shots a match, while the opposition puts up eights shots per match.
When Ball State is in the open field and applies pressure with the defense, teams have no margin for error.