Ball State avenged its only conference loss of the regular season as it defeated Northern Illinois 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon.

“What makes this a good team is that we’re always humble enough to reflect on what we need to improve on, and I think it served us really well in this game,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “We learned and tried to better ourselves from the last performance [against Northern Illinois] and I think there was definitely a strong improvement defensively with how we played their set pieces. I was delighted with the way that we prepared ourselves and how they carried out the game plan.”

Junior midfielder Lauren Roll opened the scoring in the 28th minute on a shot that just got past NIU goalkeeper Amy Annala. It was her fourth goal of the season.

Sophomore midfielder Julia Elvbo scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 38th minute to stretch the Cardinals’ lead to 2-0 before halftime. 

Junior midfielder Paula Guerrero and Elvbo lined up for a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box on the right side. Elvbo faked a kick and made a run toward the right side, Guerrero delivered a pass to her and she sent a shot toward the goal which deflected off Husky defender Haley Hoppe and into the net for the Cardinals’ second goal in 10 minutes of play. Guerrero was credited with the assist, her third of the season.

“I was really pleased with the way that we carried out the game plan,” Roberts said. “The girls were very disciplined on their approaches to goal, they were more selective and they ended up getting the goals they truly deserved.”

Ball State was strong offensively in the first half, holding a 6-2 shot advantage at the break. Senior goalkeeper Tristin Stuteville got the start for Ball State and only needed to make one save in the first 45 minutes.

Northern Illinois picked up the attack early in the second half. In the 49th minute, a NIU free kick from near midfield made its way into the 18-yard box and found Haley Hoppe, who headed it back toward Stuteville, who stopped the ball but was unable to make the catch as it fell to the ground before being cleared away by the Cardinal defense.

Northern Illinois’ second half aggression paid off as they were able to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 73rd minute. Senior midfielder Allie Ingham gathered from the top of the box after she got to a deflected clearance attempt, fired a strike from the top of the 18-yard box past a diving Stuteville to give Northern Illinois some life in the final 15 minutes.

In the 74th minute, Lauren Roll looked to have secured the dagger as she got to a loose ball in the box and shot it into the back of the net, but the Cardinals were flagged for offside.

Northern Illinois pressured hard, looking to earn an equalizer in the final 15 minutes, but the Ball State defense was able to keep its composure and hold on, advancing to the MAC Tournament semifinal for the first time since 2014.

“We knew that they were going to throw a lot of long balls and be very direct, as they’ve been in the past,” Roberts said. “We went over remaining composed and disciplined and I thought the girls were superb today. As an entirety, they maintained their composure and structured themselves very well, I felt they defended a hard team that is very good on set pieces.”

Ball State (11-6-3, 8-1-2 MAC) finished the game with a 12(8)-8(4) shot (on goal) advantage. Tristin Stuteville finished the afternoon with three saves.

Kent State will host the final two rounds of the MAC Tournament. Ball State will play its semifinal game against Toledo on Friday in Kent, Ohio.

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