SOCCER: Cardinals score two quick goals to beat Ohio
The Daily News
Freshman defender Leah Mattingly’s header from fellow back row member junior Cailey Starck’s corner gave Ball State a lead it would never relinquish, a contrast to the loss to Kent State University on Friday.
“We were really disappointed after Friday,” senior midfielder Maimee Morris said. “We had no reason to lose that one. It was so important to get that early goal [against Ohio] and capitalize on it.”
The goal seemed to invigorate an already motivated Ball State team.
“I think we proved today that we’re in contention to win the MAC and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t,” Morris said.
Less than six minutes later, Morris beat her defender down the right wing and sent a ball into the six-yard box that senior midfielder Michelle Blok deflected in for Ball State’s second goal.
Ball State looked more skilled and outclassed Ohio, who came into the match the co-leader of the Mid-American Conference East, for the entire first half.
“As soon as you beat [a defender] once, you feel like you can beat them over and over again,” Morris said. “There’s no reason any of our mid[fielders] or forwards can’t get by any defenders in the MAC — I have no doubt in our ability.”
In the first half, the Cardinals outshot the Bobcats 14-4 and garnered five corners to three, making the slick playing surface look like a non-issue. Head coach Craig Roberts said the weather didn’t play a factor in the match, other than the expected longer skips and small number of goalkeeper mishandles.
After being physically overmatched by Kent State, Ball State was the aggressor against Ohio — on the way to a season-high 15 fouls — and kept the Bobcats on their heels or on the ground for a good part of the game.
“It wasn’t a case of dirty challenges; we played good, honest soccer,” Roberts said. “We knew we got pushed off the ball on Friday, and that’s something we said wasn’t going to happen again.”
Through the season, Ohio has proven to be a second-half team. The Bobcats have now scored 14 of their 19 goals in the last 45 minutes of matches, utilizing halftime adjustments from first season head coach Aaron Rodgers.
Roberts said he was ready for the “predictable” systematic changes Ohio implemented, but the droves the Bobcats pushed forward made defending difficult.
Ohio brought seven and eight attackers forward almost every offensive assault, and finally all the bodies in Ball State’s defensive third proved to be too much to be denied. Ohio’s freshman forward Allison Cislo snuck a ball past freshman goalkeeper Brooke Dennis in the midst of a clogged penalty area in the 73rd minute.
With more than half of its games being decided by a goal or less, Ball State is very familiar with late-game heroics. But this was the first game the Cardinals had to defend a one-goal lead in the waning stages.
The last 15 minutes of the match had several anxious moments for both teams. Ohio had its equalizer roll across an open goalmouth and later ricochet off the cross bar, while Ball State squandered two breakaways.
“I felt the girls did a great job of keeping their composure,” Roberts said. “We had one or two sticky moments and had a couple breakaway chances to close out the game and really seal the deal, but we hung on and played strong to the end.”