Ball State came out firing in the last of five consecutive road matches to beat Akron, 2-0.

Just five minutes in, Ball State earned a corner kick. The Cardinals have worked on improving set pieces for the past few weeks.

“Our restarts are looking much better, I think we are a very good team in the air,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “We have a few different options, which makes us hard to scout and more effective.”

Junior Cailey Starck made her way over to the corner just as she had rehearsed countless times, set up the ball and put her arm up to alert her teammates of her searching ball. Starck’s cross found the head of junior defender Victoria Jacobs, who tucked it away for an early lead, with 5:23 on the clock.

Nineteen minutes later, sophomore midfielder Madison Oyer passed to freshman forward Kelsey Wendlandt with a ball that left Wendlandt 1-on-1 with Akron’s keeper, Alex Luevano-Harden.

En route to the conference-best 7-2-1 (2-0) record, one of Ball State’s problems has been impotency around the net, but Wendlandt’s finish could be a sign of improvement.

“[Wendlandt’s goal] was a great goal,” Roberts said. “She was able to stay calm, dribble around the keeper and just tap it in. It’s the kind of finish that we are looking for.”

Roberts said Ball State was able to find its successes offensively by throwing a variety of attacks at Akron. The Cardinals probed down the flanks and worked possession up through the heart of the field.

Though the Cardinals’ offensive opportunities diminished slightly in the second half, the MAC’s top-scoring defense diminished any hopes the Zips had at a comeback, allowing only three shots on goal.

“They all knew their responsibilities, executed them and they dominated a phenomenal group of forwards [for Akron],” Roberts said.

Freshman goalkeeper Brooke Dennis came up with a save that Roberts said not many would have been able to reach against Akron’s lone shot on goal of the second half to preserve the two-goal lead.

Ball State has now posted shutouts in more than half of its matches, giving them a conference-leading six on the season. Senior goalkeeper Layne Schramm and Dennis have now each contributed three clean sheets each in their alternating starts, triggering Roberts to call this the best goalkeeping he has seen in his four years at Ball State.

Depending on the results of matches around the country, the Cardinals blanking both opponents this weekend could propel Ball State into nationally elite defensive rankings.

“Akron is a completely different team than they were from a year ago,” Roberts said. “They are going to beat some good teams this year, and we’re happy we were able to get the better of them.”