The Resilient Cardinals Return

The Ball State Women’s Soccer team is finally gearing up to kick off the 2021 season on Thursday, March 4.   

It’s been 487 days since the Cardinals took the field after achieving the best record in team history of 15-5. In just his first season as head coach, Josh Rife led the Cardinals to a second place finish in the Mid-American Conference standings with a total of 24 points on the table.  

Ball State scored 34 goals last season and had a team-high 11 players earn Academic All-MAC honors. 

The team consistently surprised Rife each and every day through last season. The second year head coach has been a part of quite a lot of successful teams. He played at Texas Christian University and Indiana University, before moving on to play professionally from 2003-2013. 

“I have been really fortunate,” Rife said. “I have been a part of a lot of special teams, but I would say what last year’s team had that is similar to all those teams is the belief and finding a way to win.” 

Over the extended summer Rife stayed busy on the phone and wrote emails to fellow coaches of the game, whether he knew them or not.

One of his former teammates and former coaching ‘rivals’ being the United States women’s national team head coach Vlatdko Andonovski. He talked with him to learn more leadership tips and put a simpler philosophy together for the team.  

As the pandemic is the reason for this 2020 season being postponed, the Cardinals were able to overcome the adversity of bringing in a new group and staying ready to go on their own.  

“I think the level of gratitude and thankfulness these ladies have shown to the game have been pretty remarkable,” Rife said. “Connecting with our freshmen and helping with the transition again, this group continues to step up in those moments and help out wherever they can.” 

The need to have the desire to reach out and keep everyone on the same page was not hard for this team. The older players on the team did not hesitate to reach out to the freshman to make them feel right at home, even during uncertain times.

There are 10 freshmen joining the Cardinals this spring. The group is Rife’s first complete recruiting class since taking over as head coach in 2019. The group has come in to not only bring their talent but also display incredible self-discipline to show up to campus ready to go from day one.   

Rife mentioned this freshman class having a bit of a chip on their shoulder coming in this past fall.

Rife acknowledged it was not just him doing all the recruiting, but even senior midfielder and defender Shelby Kean knowing Ball State senior diver, Caitlin Locante. Using that connection to help her younger sister freshman Ryann Locante make the decision to be a Cardinal.   

Both the veteran players and the incoming players all have a common goal of making each other better. Rife has enjoyed the competitive atmosphere among the team.  

“They want to live out excellence,” said the Ball State head coach. “The root of competition actually isn’t opposing it’s striving together. They wanna help the program be better.” 

The team’s hard work is paying off for this mountain they have collectively climbed together. 

“We are more fit than we have ever been, we are more stronger than we have ever been.” Rife said. 

With the season just under way, Rife has some clear goals in store for this team.  

“No secret here,” Rife said. “This is a group that wants to go win a MAC title. If we do that, the NCAA tournament comes next. They have the daily commitment to get better, to be ready for anything.” 

The Cardinals are predicted to finish first in the West Division, and second in the MAC according to the preseason polls. 

The season is set to begin Thursday, March 4 at 3 p.m. at the Briner Sports Complex against the Rockets of Toledo.

Author: Parker Webster