It wasn’t always pretty, but Ball State soccer persevered to claim a 2-1 victory at Buffalo and stay within two points of first place in the overall Mid-American Conference standings.

Sophomore defender Yela Ziswiler’s first two goals of the season couldn’t have come at a better time, as she scored her second of the game just two minutes after Buffalo claimed the momentum by scoring an equalizer off of a penalty kick late in the final 15 minutes.

The game was back and forth throughout the first half as both teams felt each other out. Buffalo was able to get into Ball State’s defensive third multiple times, but Ball State’s defense stayed solid and only gave up four shots in the first 45 minutes.

In the 18th minute it looked like sophomore midfielder Julia Elvbo was about to end her scoring drought and record another goal from a header, but her shot hit the right post and Buffalo was able to recover to keep the game scoreless.

In the 42nd minute Ball State once again showed its ability to score on set pieces. Junior midfielder Paula Guerrero sent in a corner kick that was deflected off the right post by senior defender Sam Mattlin before sophomore defender Yela Ziswiler was able to get a solid touch on the ball and send it into the back of the net for her first goal of the season to give Ball State a 1-0 lead at the half. Senior defender Sam Mattlin was credited with the assist, her first of the year.

“We were pressuring and Amanda Shaw was able to get it deflected,” Ziswiler said. "Sam Mattlin kicked it off the post and it came to me and I was able to score.”

A halftime locker room issue resulted in Ball State receiving a yellow card for a delay of game.

“The locker room we were supposed to be using was locked, so we were essentially hanging out in the hallway for most of halftime,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “By the time it was unlocked they were knocking on our door to tell us to come out of the locker room. The assistant coach and I received yellow cards for what was called a delay of game.”

In the second half, Ball State found itself consistently pressured by an aggressive Buffalo offense. Buffalo got off nine shots in the second half compared to just three for Ball State. 

Senior goalkeeper Tristin Stuteville made a key deflection in the 54th minute when a Buffalo shot hit her hand and rolled into the left post before she was able to recover and make the save, not giving Buffalo a chance to rebound the shot.

In the 77th minute Ball State paid for an aggressive misstep on defense. As Buffalo was on the attack, Ziswiler tripped her up and the officials awarded Buffalo with a penalty kick and a chance to score an equalizer. 

They did just that. Senior Buffalo midfielder Julia Benati took the penalty kick, sending into the left side of the net for her sixth goal of the season after Stuteville got a hand on it but was unable to get enough of the ball to keep it out of the net.

Ball State didn’t let Buffalo keep that momentum for long. In the 79th minute Ball State found themselves with another corner kick opportunity. 

Senior forward Allison Abbe sent the corner into the box and Ziswiler did the rest, heading it home for the game-winning goal and giving Abbe her sixth assist of the season. The Ball State defense held strong and kept the ball away from Buffalo for the final 10 minutes to seal its third consecutive win.

“It felt great to score, but it doesn’t matter to us who is able to score,” Ziswiler said. “All that matters is that we get a win.”

The Cardinals finished the game trailing the Bulls in shots 13-11, but earned a win by staying solid on defense when it mattered down the stretch and capitalized on their corner kick opportunities.

“On set pieces we’re not relying on just one player to score,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of different players who can contribute. We still need to get better with our touches but overall our goal is to keep winning games.”

Stuteville had a strong game, receiving some praise from Roberts and finishing with nine saves after only being tested twice in the past two games.

Ball State (9-6- 2, 7-1- 1 MAC) will conclude its road trip with a stop at Akron Sunday. That game will have a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Contact Nate Fields with comments at nefields@bsu.edu.