If there is a way to win convincingly by one goal, then Ball State’s soccer team found it in a 2-1 victory over Northern Iowa. Ball State dominated its season opener at the Briner Sports Complex in every way, except on the scoreboard. 


The Cardinals won through the strength of two goals from senior defensive midfielder Michelle Blok, but left at least a half dozen off the board. 


Earlier in the week Ball State head coach Craig Roberts said matching Northern Iowa’s physical intensity was key. As if on cue, the Panthers opened the game with several hard challenges that eschewed complaints from Ball State coaches, players and fans.


“The girls knew that [Northern Iowa] was going to come out strong, but we matched that,” Roberts said. 


Ball State’s physical intensity stayed strong throughout the game, but it was never sucked into playing the long ball game Northern Iowa tried to get going early. The Cardinals’ midfield was able to stay in the offensive third of the field for a majority of the game and dictate a more technical style of game.


Ball State probed throughout the entire first half.


After a left-footed rocket of the post and a cross that grazed the hair of junior wing Jasmine Moses, freshman striker Kelsey Wendlandt was inches shy of a goal and an assist.


For as much time as Ball State spent on the attack, a goal seemed eminent. But there was always a missed first touch or a bad bounce that seemed to thwart any on-goal efforts—of Ball State’s five first half shots, only one tested Northern Iowa’s goalkeeper.


Then in the 39th minute, the offense finally broke through. But it was in the form of a Northern Iowa counter. 


The Panthers earned back-to-back corners; the second of which found the back of the net. 


After winning the goalkeeper starting position, senior Layne Schramm never seemed to get a good read on the bending corner, and Maggie Riley’s corner kick shot into the goal untouched to allow the Panthers to go into the half up 1-0 with only one shot in the half.


“At half, coach just told us to stay confident in what we were doing,” Blok said. “We dominated the whole first half, and they just got a lucky goal.”


The halftime speech seemed to have a rousing effect—especially to Blok. 


Just two minutes into the second half, an errant pass out of Northern Iowa’s defense found its way to Blok’s feet. With two touches, and no crashing defender, Blok sized up a 22-yard equalizer.


Then, not five minutes later, a hard foul gave Ball State a free kick. From there, another Blok strike gave the Cardinals a lead that they would never relinquish.


“I thought we played with great skill,” Roberts said. “But we are always looking to push our standards higher.”