Conor Hockett

Throughout Sunday's game against Xavier, Ball State coach Craig Roberts yelled from the sideline to stay wide and push up the field.

Bodies were getting too bunched up in the midfield, eliminating passing lanes.

After the game went to overtime tied 1-1, Roberts made sure the Cardinals would use his advice.

In extra time, Roberts switched to a 4-5-1 formation, which spread out Xavier's defense and allowed sophomore forward Nicole Pembleton to slip into the box for a game-winning goal.

"The outside midfielders changed our formation, and it allowed us to create in the last few minutes of the game," Roberts said. "We were able to break them down and got the ball through to the players [we wanted]. One of those players we were trying to initiate things for was Nikki Pembleton."

Pembleton was the end target, but sophomore defender Pavla Benyrova created the whole opportunity.

After she picked up a loose ball outside the box, Benyrova dribbled to the right end line and found Pembleton streaking through the box. Her diagonal pass hit Pembleton in stride, and she buried it in the back of the net.

"I had a lot of time to look because I got by one defender," Benyrova said. "I saw how all the players were going forward, but Nikki [Pembleton] was smart and stayed back. I saw her [and passed it in]."

Benyrova didn't score in the 2-1 win, but the former Czech Republic National Team member may have saved the game for the Cardinals. She made threatening runs up the right side all game long, dancing through multiple defenders with ease.

"I have to recognize when I can go up and when I should stay," Benyrova said. "It's based on me, but [Roberts] really wants to play it forward because we can overplay them [on one side] and score."

One of those runs resulted in Ball State's first goal of the game.

After making it to the edge of the box, Benyrova sent a dangerous cross to the left side of goal. It took a deflection off senior defender Skylar Chew before falling to Aubrey Hauenstein. The freshman forward's header was blocked, but she finished the rebound with her right foot.

"I know it's always best to follow up no matter what," Hauenstein said. "It ended up good for us, and I was able to finish it off."

For much of the second half, it didn't look like Hauenstein or Ball State would get the chance to extend the game.

Xavier's Ashton Green scored in the 58th minute of game and seemingly sucked out all of Ball State's momentum. It wasn't until Hauenstein's goal just over 20 minutes later where they got it back.

Ball State finished the weekend 2-0 to get its overall record back over .500 (2-1). Although the finishes came late in Friday's game against Northern Kentucky as well, Roberts said Sunday's game is another step in the right direction for his team.

"I felt like we dominated much of the game and into overtime, but we couldn't finish at first," Roberts said. "When we finally did, it was a relief. That is a very good team we beat."