Tyler Poslosky

The 19th meeting between Michigan State and Ball State proved to be an exciting one.

From the opening draw, the Spartans and Cardinals went head-to-head, exchanging opportunities in the offensive zone.

Senior goalkeeper Chelsea Mitchell got the nod for the third consecutive game for the Cardinals and was tested early and often.

Mitchell made a pair of big saves in the first five minutes of the game to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard.

During the mid-way point of the first half, the Spartans capitalized on a defensive breakdown by the Cardinals. Freshman Abby Barker entered the game as substitute for the Spartans and broke through the Cardinals defense, lifting the ball over a diving Mitchell for the game's only score.

"I came out to slide tackle and break up the play," Mitchell said, following the game. "The rebound went off my stick and right back to [Barker], who eventually lifted it over me. Very unfortunate, very unlucky, but it is what it is."

The Cardinals had a multitude of opportunities to tie the game and take the lead, but the ball didn't bounce their way.

As the first half was winding down, senior captain Devanny Kuhn broke through the Spartans defense and went airborne as she shot the ball, but goalkeeper Molly Cassidy made a tremendous save to preserve the 1-0 Michigan State lead.

"They are aggressive, so you just got to play through it," Kuhn said.

The Spartans harassed Kuhn time after time. Constantly being elbowed and pushed to the turf, Kuhn fought through the aggressive Spartan defenders, doing all she could to score.

"I can't question the calls," Kuhn said. "Can't throw elbows to them, just got to keep going. It's just [their] style of play."

The Cardinals continued to fight and dominated the Spartans in the second half.

Freshman Sanne Hermans fired a shot that went just wide of the goal. Kuhn also recorded a pair of shots, but Cassidy denied both.

With so many missed opportunities, the frustration mounted for the home team.

"Our defense played well, we were dominating them," Kuhn said. "We just couldn't finish. It's upsetting, but it's a learning experience."

The Cardinals outshot the Spartans 10 to seven and had five opportunities to score via penalty corner kicks in the second half, but couldn't find the back of the net.

Not only did the Cardinals outplay the Spartans offensively, but the defense stepped up as well.

Near the end of the game, senior Caitlin Maguire made a huge defensive save after Mitchell attempted to make a save. The play kept the Cardinals in the game to the end.

"I saw that the ball coming down the opposite side, so I was just dropping back," Maguire said. "[Heather Howie] got a breakaway [and] Chelsea came out aggressively and unfortunately [the ball] got right passed her. Luckily I was hustling back, got my stick on the ball and got it out."

Maguire felt her defensive stop boosted the energy at the end of the game and allowed the Cardinals to keep pressing.

But the Cardinals couldn't finish and the Spartans hung on for the 1-0 victory as the final horn sounded.

The defeat dealt the Cardinals (2-11) their fifth loss to a Big Ten opponent this season.

Despite the unfavorable outcome, coach Beth Maddox said her team turned it their best outing against a Big Ten team this season.

"For the most part," Maddox said. "The girls are tired, they've had a rough schedule, a lot of games in a short amount of time. It's catching up with them a little bit. They strung it together and fought hard."

The loss is a tough one to swallow for the Cardinals, but Kuhn knows they have to move on to Sunday afternoon's Mid-American Conference game against Missouri State.

"We'll come out stronger tomorrow and lead a better attack and finish at the end," Kuhn said.