Ball State soccer beats Kent State in overtime, leads MAC
KENT, Ohio — Freshman Ball State forward Sam Kambol sprinted toward the Kent State goal after corralling the ball near midfield. She could've waited for her teammates, but instead she took it down the left side of the field.
It was the 96th minute of the game — overtime — and the Mid-American Conference plays sudden-death overtime.
Kambol split a couple of defenders to move into the box, and with a stutter step she flicked the ball right around one more. Surrounded by three defenders, she sent the ball toward the net with her right foot.
53rd minute: Jenna Hellstrom (Kent State)
77th minute: Kelsey Wendlant (Ball State)
96th minute: Sam Kambol (Ball State)
Ball State shots: 19
Kent State shots: 11
Ball State shots on goal: 9
Kent State shots on goal: 3
Ball State (13-3-2, 8-1-1 MAC) won 2-1 to move back on top of the Mid-American Conference with one game left in the season.
"I almost had a light switch in my head go off because I had been struggling with [waiting too long] a few games, and when I got that ball I was just determined to go to goal," Kambol said.
Head coach Craig Roberts said Kambol, who is now tied for the team league with five goals this season, was "in her element."
"One-on-one, [she] cut the player up and was very, very composed," Roberts said. "Lots of players wouldn't have had that maturity that she showed as a freshman to score that goal, and she ended up putting it in the back of the net."
Kambol almost didn't get the chance. A few minutes earlier, Kent State (11-2-2, 7-1-2) knocked the ball into the net on a free kick, but the goal was disallowed when the referee ruled that goalkeeper Alyssa Heintschel was pushed out of the way.
Roberts played down the importance of the call, saying Heintschel "would've saved the ball anyway," but senior forward Kelsey Wendlandt said it lit a fire under the Cardinals.
"It was a wake-up call," she said. "They just almost won this game, that's how close this game is. We're this close to winning this, we can not let this happen again."
Ball State needed the win to move back into first place after losing to Ohio University (5-11-1, 3-7 MAC) Oct. 20. Kent State had yet to lose a game, and the team would've clinched the regular season championship with a win.
"I think so far this has been the most important game, especially after a tough loss against OU," Wendlandt said. "We needed to get our confidence back, and we really needed to win this game. Now we're in control of who wins the MAC."
Wendlandt and Kambol both entered the game as substitutes, and although Kambol scored the game-winner, overtime wouldn't have happened without Wendlandt's tying goal in the 77th minute.
"I get the ball, it's on my right foot, and I know that I don't really have the best angle," she said. "If I cut this and I go to my left, I have to have a good shot so I just hit it as hard as I could. It went in and I was ecstatic."
It was a fast-paced game, with Ball State both taking and allowing more shots than usual. Nine of the Cardinals' 19 shots were on goal, and while Kent State fired off 11 shots — higher than Ball State's 8.7 shots against per game — only three of those were on goal, and the Golden Flashes were still held below their season average of 14.1 shots per game.
Kent State's lone goal was scored by senior Jenna Hellstrom, who leads the MAC with 13 goals scored this season.
"The first goal that we did concede was just a failure to deny the service, and then it put the ball in a dangerous situation where [Hellstrom]'s in her element," Roberts said. "She's just scrambling balls and finds the net. And so you pay for that, but I think from then on we learned our lesson and definitely moved forward from it."
Ball State's last regular season game will be Oct. 27 against Miami (8-7-2, 5-3-2 MAC). With a win, the Cardinals will repeat as regular season champions.
"We don't have to depend on anyone else losing," Wendlandt said. "It's up to us now."