SOCCER: Late goals push Ball State past Buffalo
Cardinals score twice in final 14 minutes to open MAC play with win
In a game marked by turnovers and sloppy play, Morgan Whitfield's run up the left side looked like a desperation attempt at first.
Ball State's freshman forward ran out of space and was looking for an outlet when she was fouled just outside the box and awarded a free kick.
Junior midfielder Maimee Morris' kick hit the crossbar, but the rebound fell to Michelle Blok who kneed it into goal for an equalizer.
The junior defender's first career goal wasn't pretty, but it started a wild final 14 minutes in Ball State's 2-1 win over Buffalo in Friday's Mid-American Conference opener.
"Coaches always tell us to crash the net and follow anything that goes," Blok said. "Right when [Morris] hit it, I just ran straight at the goalie. I was in the right spot at the right time and just finished."
For the majority of the game, the Cardinals failed to finish any of their chances.
The first half went scoreless and Ball State looked sluggish. A couple uninspired clearance attempts turned into Buffalo's only goal in the 56th minute.
Junior defender Natalie Jurisevic beat her defender into the right side of the box and swung a shot across goal. Senior goalkeeper Aubrey Buehler did well to deflect it, but the rebound bounced right to sophomore midfielder Courtney Mann who buried it in the back of the net.
"I didn't think [our energy] was flowing for us today," coach Craig Roberts said. "As the game went on, we came out of our shell a little bit more, but we definitely need more energy going into these MAC games if we're going to be victorious."
Ball State's energy sunk to an all-time low in the game after Buffalo scored. The team looked out of it until Whitfield drew her foul outside the box in the 76th minute.
"[Whitfield] has been consistently getting better all season long," Roberts said. "She's very dangerous and will be a player that will start to shine as we reach the end of the season. She's got tremendous pace and so unorthodox in her running style that it's very hard to judge what she's going to do."
Whitfield's movements seemed to confuse the Bulls because, not four minutes after the Cardinals equalizer, she got taken down inside the box for a penalty kick.
Sophomore forward Pavla Benyrova took the penalty kick and buried it in the lower left corner to give Ball State an improbable 2-1 lead.
"We don't really have a designated penalty kicker," Blok said. "A lot of girls are good at them, but she just stepped up to the plate and got the goal for us."
Benyrova's goal sealed the game, but it was Blok's finish that caused all the momentum to swing in the Cardinals' favor.
Ball State (4-3-2) dominated the rest of the game and played keep away over the final ten minutes to win its first conference game of the weekend.
"I think once I scored, it was just a matter of we gotta go now," Blok said. "It's conference play now, so we just kicked it into gear and got it done."