Soccer hosts Eastern and Central Michigan for final two regular season home games

The Cardinals look to bounce back and regain their conference lead

<p>Junior forward Evie Stepaniak attempts to move the ball down the field in the game against Northern Illinois on Oct. 8 at the Briner Sports Complex. The Cardinals next home game is Oct. 13 against Eastern Michigan. Breanna Daugherty, DN</p>

Junior forward Evie Stepaniak attempts to move the ball down the field in the game against Northern Illinois on Oct. 8 at the Briner Sports Complex. The Cardinals next home game is Oct. 13 against Eastern Michigan. Breanna Daugherty, DN

Game 15

Ball State vs. Eastern Michigan

Friday, Oct. 13 (4 p.m.)

Muncie (Briner Sports Complex)

Game 16

Ball State vs. Central Michigan

Sunday, Oct. 15 (2 p.m.)

Muncie (Briner Sports Complex)

Ball State soccer will look to bounce back from a 3-2 home loss against Northern Illinois, a game in which the Cardinals hadn’t trailed until the final NIU goal in the fourth minute of overtime. 

“We need to be better about being consistent with our mentality for the entire game,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “We played relatively well throughout the game, but we need improvement and we need to be more consistent in dealing with set pieces, they weren’t really a threat in any other area, we just didn’t finish them off.”

The loss was Ball State’s first this season in Mid-American Conference play and its first regular season defeat at Briner Sports Complex since Oct. 30, 2014.

Junior midfielder Lauren Roll and senior midfielder Allison Abbe scored the two goals for the Cardinals in Sunday’s game. Roll netted her third of the year after rebounding her own miss in the first 10 minutes. Abbe’s goal, her first of the season, came on a nicely placed strike from 25 yards out.

“We learned a valuable lesson in regards to consistency of mentality,” Roberts said. “The three lapses we had throughout the game were very unlike us, it was a team we did go over, but when it came down to play, we still made the mistakes. I hold my hand up as the coach and say that we didn’t prepare them, I felt that we should’ve prepared them better, that way we would’ve been more consistent.”

The Cardinals won’t be caught hanging their heads after one loss, as they plan to learn from the loss and come back stronger. 

“Although we were very disappointed with the loss, in any form or phase of life you have to face situations which aren’t going to be in your favor,” Roberts said. “It’s how you respond to that adversity that’s key.” 

Roberts used a quote from Boxing Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua to relate to his team’s current situation. 

“All of the greatest fighters will have lost a fight, it’s about how you deal with the adversity and come back,” was the quote.

“It’s the same thing for us, it’s how you deal with a setback,” Roberts said. “It makes you analyze closer, it makes you focus on areas that you need to be stronger and I think these girls are very receptive to that. I think you’ll find that we’ll rebound and be a lot stronger because we’re not going to be a team that falls apart or backs down — it’s going to be a case of asking ourselves what we can do to be better.”

Eastern Michigan (5-9-1, 2-4-0 MAC) will look to redeem a loss of its own, a game in which they let the second half slip away in the final 30 minutes in a 4-1 defeat at Toledo Sunday. The Eagles enter Friday’s game ranked 10th in the MAC in goals per game at 0.93. 

Although they don’t have a high powered offense, eleven different players have scored a goal for them this season, led by sophomore forward Sabrina McNeill with two goals and two assists. 

“Eastern Michigan is a team that traditionally tries to attack down the middle, so we’re going to have to keep the central portion of the field tight and compact,” Roberts said. “It’s going to be a technical game. Eastern Michigan will look to play the ball on the ground and connect passes down the middle, so as long as we’re ready for that we should be able to pick that off.”

Ball State (6-6-2, 4-1-1 MAC) may have an opportunity for a scoring outburst Friday. Eastern Michigan comes into the game 11th in the MAC in goals allowed, conceding 1.8 per game, while only Akron is worse at 2.14. 

“We need to keep on improving our game,” Roberts said. “We’re attacking oriented so we need to polish up our conversions of shots and waves of attack to take advantage of the organization of their defenders.”

The Cardinals will look to get back to their solid defensive ways Friday. Northern Illinois’ three-goal outing marked the second-highest scoring game for a Ball State opponent this season. The Cardinals come into the game tied for fourth in the MAC in goals allowed (1.14) and tied for sixth in scoring at 1.21 goals per game. Forward Sam Kambol and midfielder Julia Elvbo, a pair of sophomores, lead Ball State in scoring with four goals each.

Ball State has won its last two meetings against Eastern Michigan, last year’s being a 3-1 road victory. The Cardinals trailed in that game until Elvbo scored an equalizer from 30 yards out in the first half, followed by goals from Roll and then senior Leah Mattingly to leave with a victory that afternoon.

The Cardinals have two wins and a draw in their last three meetings with Central Michigan. Last year’s meeting ended in a scoreless draw after Ball State held Central Michigan to just seven shots.

Central Michigan (6-5-3, 1-3-2 MAC) will visit winless Miami (Oh) Friday, looking to bounce back from a 3-1 loss at Bowling Green last weekend before visiting Briner Sports Complex Sunday afternoon. Central Michigan is second in the MAC in scoring, averaging 1.71 goal per game. The Chippewas rely on junior forward Lexi Pelafas for the majority of their offense, as she has 12 goals this season on 75 shots, leading the MAC in both categories.

Ball State will look to stay atop the MAC West Division standings and keep within reach of Kent State (9-4-1, 5-1-0 MAC) for the lead of the overall MAC standings. Ball State needs a win and a Kent State draw to regain the conference lead.

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