Sophomore midfielder/forward Emily Scott fights for the ball against Miami (OH). Ball State won 2-0 and clinched the MAC regular season championship. Colin Grylls // DN
Cardinals repeat as MAC regular season champions
In the 88th minute of Ball State soccer's 2-0 win Oct. 27, senior Miami midfielder Jenna Weiner lined up for a free kick outside the box.
She kicked a lazy ball that floated right into the hands of Ball State goalkeeper Alyssa Heintschel, but the handful of Miami fans who traveled to Muncie emitted a small cheer anyway.
It was the first — and only — shot allowed by Ball State in its 10th shutout of the season.
Ball State shots: 34
Miami shots: 1
Ball State shots on goal: 15
Miami shots on goal: 1
Ball State corner kicks: 16
Miami corner kicks: 1
With the win, the Cardinals (14-3-2, 9-1-1 MAC) locked up their second consecutive Mid-American Conference regular season championship, but senior defender Lorina White wants more.
"It means a lot [to repeat], but we have to keep working because it's not over," White said. "We still have the tournament and we don't want to get knocked out and get too cocky like last time."
Last season, Ball State won the MAC regular season title, but lost to Akron in the first round of the tournament. The memory is still fresh in the team's mind.
"I think the girls use their experience," said head coach Craig Roberts. "I think the camaraderie and the interaction between the players is stronger every time we get together. They're really enjoying their soccer, we're enjoying coaching them ... but the fact that we're remaining humble and we keep on reflecting is getting us to where we need to get to."
The loss to Akron last season was a scoreless tie that went to penalty kicks, but Ball State had no such issues with Miami (8-8-2, 5-4-2 MAC). The Cardinals put 15 shots on goal and took 34 shots overall. Ten different players had a shot on goal, and four had more than one.
"They're not one-dimensional," Roberts said. "We have different diversities of attack and we have different systems. ... It's very hard to handle and I think with that versatility that we have, it's unpredictable."
Freshman defender Yela Ziswiler added to that unpredictability in the 63rd minute. She took the ball well outside the box on the right side of the field, turned and fired a long shot toward the top left corner of the net. Senior Miami goalkeeper Vic Maniaci entered the game leading the MAC with 90 saves and added 13 more against Ball State, but she couldn't quite reach Ziswiler's shot.
"We've been encouraging her to get the ball in a little bit quicker and to actually take some shots out there," Roberts said. "It's something we have visited prior to the game we know she has the ability to do. It's just another great, consistent performance from the freshman."
It was Ziswiler's first goal of the season, and earlier in the game junior midfielder Lucy Walton scored her first to put Ball State up 1-0. Entering the tournament, 12 different Cardinals have scored a goal this year.
Ziswiler is also part of Ball State's vaunted back line, along with White, senior Leah Mattingly and sophomore Taylor Pooley. All four have started every game this season, and the Cardinals lead the MAC in shutouts and goals allowed per game (.74).
As the top seed, the Cardinals will play at home in the tournament. Walton said it should be a significant advantage given that Ball State is 10-0-1 at Briner Sports Complex this season.
"We have a really good fanbase, so I think seeing all of my friends — and even people we don't know —come out and support us is really motivating," Walton said. "Just everything, the whole atmosphere when we come here — we don't lose at our field."
Ball State will host 8-seed Northern Illinois (4-10-4, 3-6-2 MAC) in the MAC quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Oct. 30.