MUNCIE, Ind. -- It has been nearly a full month since the Ball State soccer team played a home game.
The seasons have changed from summer to fall, and the team has traveled from Colorado to New York, but Ball State’s rise has continued steadily.
Now, after five straight on the road, the Cardinals finally return to action at the Briner Sports Complex this weekend, bringing the best record in the Mid-American Conference back home with them.
Ball State continues league play with home games Friday at 4:30 p.m. against Kent State and Sunday at 1 p.m. against Ohio. Live stats and a streaming radio broadcast by Sports Link Radio on WCRD will be available for both games at ballstatesports.com.
The Cardinals are off to their best start since 2006 at 7-2-1 overall (2-0 MAC), and they opened conference play last week with road wins at Buffalo and Akron. Freshman Kelsey Wendlandt scored her team-leading fourth goal of the season against the Zips, while MAC Defensive Player of the Week Victoria Jacobs added a tally to become the fifth Ball State player with at least two goals on the year.
The last time the Cardinals were at home, way back on Sept. 8, they were busy posting their third shutout with a 2-0 win over Tennessee Tech. Since then, Ball State has racked up three more shutouts, shooting up the NCAA’s defensive statistical rankings in the process.
Bolstered by a team effort across the field, a stout back line and strong goalkeeping from Layne Schramm and Brooke Dennis, the Cardinals check in this week at No. 4 nationally in save percentage (.904), No. 13 in goals against average (.471) and No. 20 in shutout percentage (.600).
While the team found success with a 3-1-1 record on its recent road swing, Ball State has been even more dominant at home this year. The Cardinals are a perfect 4-0 in Muncie and have outscored their opponents by a combined total of 10-1 at the Briner Sports Complex.
Kent State visits Friday, looking to present a challenge for the Ball State defense. The Golden Flashes (6-4, 1-1 MAC) exploded for five goals, highlighted by a hat trick for Jessacca Gironda, in their most recent victory over Bowling Green. While Kent State also features the MAC’s leading scorer from a year ago in Jaclyn Dutton, this year’s team has relied heavily on defense, ranking third in the conference in goals against average at 0.98.
Ball State is 6-8-2 all-time against Kent State, but the Cardinals own a 4-1-2 lead in the series at home. The Golden Flashes’ only win in Muncie came in their last trip in 2011. Ball State lost a pair of road games in Kent, Ohio, last year, including one on a sloppy day in the MAC Tournament.
Ohio (5-3-2, 1-1 MAC), like Kent State, defeated Bowling Green and lost to Central Michigan in its opening weekend of league play. The Bobcats’ loss Sunday snapped a six-game unbeaten streak. Ohio plays Friday at Miami University before heading to Muncie. Carly Manso leads the team offensively with four goals on the season, while keeper Mattie Liston owns a 1.01 goals against average.
Ball State is 4-9-3 all-time against Ohio but 2-2-2 against the Bobcats in Muncie. The teams have played to a 1-1 draw in each of the past two seasons.