Conor Hockett

After its loss to Marshall a week ago, the Ball State soccer team made it clear getting pushed around would never happen again.

Ball State backed up those statements Friday in a 2-1 win against Northern Kentucky in the second game of the Ball State Tournament at Briner Sports Complex.

"I think we definitely picked it [our energy] up from Marshall," senior defender Skylar Chew said. "I would say we won the majority of the 50-50 balls, and we didn't get knocked off the ball. That [going hard] is definitely what caused our win today."

The Cardinals used their bodies to gain a physical advantage on scrums in the box all game long. On one set piece, Chew got a free run on goal and headed a cross over all the Norse defenders for the first goal of the match.

"They were definitely playing a zone defense," Chew said. "Brigit [Reder] and I talk about that all the time - we love when they play a zone. We always play the ball in long because there is just so much free space for us. It is like golden for us and we love that."

Ball State dominated possession and play in the first half, but its 11-3 shot advantage didn't amount to any goals. It was an attack that coach Craig Roberts said wore them down and eventually culminated into Chew's goal.

"We've got some great headers of the ball," Roberts said. "If you give them an inch they're going to take it."

Those inches turned into feet of space for Ball State in the second half.

Northern Kentucky started to unravel under the constant pressure of Ball State's forwards pushing up the field. Just over two minutes after Chew's goal, senior forward Paige Stroinski made a run to the left end line and served a cross into the box.

No Cardinals players were in the area, but the ball confused the goalie, and it deflected off a Norse defender for an own goal in the 68th minute.

It wasn't the prettiest of finishes, but Roberts said his team's great passing in the midfield set up most of Ball State's chances.

"I thought we found our connections really well and opened them up," Roberts said. "We did a really good job of possessing, moving it forward and putting numerous attacks together. When we got into the attacking third, we took [advantage of] our opportunities today so I was pleased to see that."

One thing Roberts wasn't happy about was the way his team finished the game. In the 85th minute, Northern Kentucky's Megan Frye got behind the defense on a corner kick and buried a loose ball into the back of the net.

That made for an uncomfortable finish to the game for the Cardinals. The one-goal lead is one Roberts said he didn't feel comfortable with and fans could sense the anxiety on the field.

"I think for 75 percent of the game we dominated and played really well," Roberts said. "There was just a little spell at the end where they gave us some pressure."

Ball State was able to close out the game, but didn't like the feeling of vulnerability. Chew said when the team plays Xavier at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, giving the Musketeers any glimpse of a win won't be tolerated.

 "I'm definitely not OK with the goal we let in at the end," Chew said. "A win is a win, but I know the defense is not going to be OK with letting in that goal. Hopefully we can close out games [better] from now on."