Ball State's streak of 22 unbeaten regular season home games snapped in 3-2 loss to NIU
Ball State soccer’s six-game unbeaten streak was snapped Sunday in a 3-2 loss against Northern Illinois after the Huskies mounted a comeback late in the second half and overtime, handing Ball State its first Mid-American Conference loss of the season.
The Cardinals led most of the game after a fast start. Junior midfielder Lauren Roll opened the scoring column in the eighth minute after she rebounded her own miss near the goalkeeper’s box and scored her third goal of the season to give Ball State an early lead.
Northern Illinois responded in under 10 minutes. The Huskies caught the Ball State defense out of position in the 17th minute after a Cardinals corner kick. Senior forward Sammy O’Brien got a shot past senior goalkeeper Alyssa Heintschel that deflected off the right post and in the net after Heintschel slipped and fell to the turf.
“We made mental lapses, which are unusual for us defensively,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “They’re very much a one-dimensional team, a set-piece team and a counter team, and for whatever reason we had a mental lapse and tried to do a little too much and we paid for it.”
Ball State took just two minutes to regain the lead. Senior midfielder Allison Abbe scored her first goal of the season in the 19th minute as she ripped a shot from 25 yards out, deflecting off the hands of Northern Illinois goalkeeper Amy Annala and into the back of the net.
From there the scoring came to a halt until late in the second half when the Huskies found a game-saving rally. Northern Illinois redshirt junior Lauren Gierman scored her second goal of the season in the 87th minute after she ripped a free kick from near the right side of the 18-yard line past the defensive wall and a diving Heintschel to get the equalizer and force overtime.
Northern Illinois carried its momentum into the overtime period. Just four minutes into overtime, sophomore midfielder Kyleigh Dominguez won position to receive a deep pass into the goalkeeper’s box and tapped it past Heintschel for the winning goal, handing Ball State its first regular season defeat at Briner Sports Complex since Oct. 30, 2014.
“We need to be better about being consistent with our mentality for the entire game,” Roberts said. “We played relatively well throughout the game, but we need improvement and we need to be more consistent in dealing with set pieces, they weren’t really a threat in any other area, we just didn’t finish them off.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Cardinals, who held a 7-1 shot advantage going into halftime. The script was flipped in the second half as they failed to find consistent opportunities, leading to an 8-2 advantage in shots for the Huskies in the second half.
“We knew that they were going to be very direct, it’s not really a soccer game when you’re playing them it’s more of a direct ball in the box kind of game,” Roberts said. “I felt we dealt with the directness well for the majority of the game, but at the end of the game defensively we set up incorrectly and we paid for it.”
With its loss today, Ball State (6-6-2, 4-1-1 MAC) has fallen to second in the overall MAC standings behind Kent State. The Cardinals still hold a one point lead over Northern Illinois (7-5-1, 4-2-0 MAC) for the MAC West Division lead.
Ball State will look to get back in the win column Friday, as they host Eastern Michigan at Briner Sports Complex. That game will have a 4 p.m. kickoff.