Ball State fought until the final whistle, constantly bombarding its opponent with pressure and shots from every direction.

Amidst the steamy temperatures and a group of inexperienced players, the Wildcats triumphed with a 3-1 victory, leaving the Cardinals searching for answers and for their first win of the season.

Coach Beth Maddox was frustrated with the loss, but acknowledged her team's improvement.

"Everyday it's going to get better and that's what we've been focusing on from the beginning," Maddox said. "Progress each day is what we're looking for and that's what we saw today."

The Wildcats (5-2) struck first in the opening half following sophomore forward Nikki Parsley's unassisted goal, her third of the season, from the top of the circle at the 11-minute mark.

Ball State whiffed on a number of corner kicks, but with intermission approaching, made its last one count.

Freshman defender Laura Malinoski inserted the ball from the left corner of the field, then sprinted to the front of the net, deflecting freshman Sanne Hermans' pass into the back of the cage, tying the game at 1-1.

The tally was Malinoski's first of the season and brought the Cardinals back to life.

"We were struggling to get the insert in and [Laura] was able to get that one out nice and quick," Maddox said. "We studied their defense, so we knew they weren't watching the person who inserted. Between [senior Devanny Kuhn], Sanne and Laura, they executed it perfectly. It was a beautiful goal."

As the final 35 minutes began to tick away, Northwestern took over, while Ball State self-destructed.

The Wildcats totaled eight corner kicks in the final half and came through on two. Junior Chelsea Armstrong and senior Regan Mooney gave Northwestern a two-goal cushion, which ultimately sank the Cardinals (0-4).

Defensive breakdowns plagued the Cardinals as the Wildcats totaled 22 second-half shots, an improvement from just eight in the first.

Maddox said the youth and inexperience led to the collapse.

"It's a combination of being young and trying to work through some things," Maddox said. "[It] was really a lack of experience and understanding what needed to be done."

On a positive note, freshman goalkeeper Haley Fusting had a career day for Ball State.

Fusting was tested often, stopping 21 of Northwestern's 24 shots on goal, which kept the Cardinals in the game.

"She's got a big presence and that's what you look for," Maddox said. "Once she starts working on the fundamentals and once she gets stronger technically, she'll be able to make more saves. She was the reason we were able to compete."