Facing 18 shots, Ball State (5-1, 0-0 MAC) saw its 16-game unbeaten streak come to a close Friday at Florida Atlantic (5-2, 0-0 Conference USA). The Cardinals fell to the Owls, 1-0, as Ball State’s offense was shut out for the first time since a 1-0 loss at Kent State Sept. 28, 2018.
“Any loss sucks,” Rife said. “I don’t believe in moral victories. We’ve got some things we need to get better and some things we need to learn.”
While graduate student goalkeeper Tristen Stuteville ended her night with nine saves on 10 shots, the Cardinals’ offense could not click as they failed to record a shot. The Owls also maximized their offensive chances with 11 corner kicks compared to the Cardinals’ one.
Despite the loss, Rife credited Stuteville’s performance and leadership as a factor in keeping the game tight from a defensive standpoint.
“She continued to be solid and consistent,” Rife said. “That’s something you ask out of any player, especially your goalkeeper. She’s done that all season, but she’s trying to push herself to get better. All the praise and recognition she’s gotten is well-deserved.”
Senior midfielder Mary O’Hara opened the scoring for the Owls 5:56 into the first half, ultimately being all Florida Atlantic needed.
“After that first five to 10 minutes, I still think they gave us everything we could handle,” Rife said. “We had some big moments to keep them off the board, and I thought we settled into it better. [I’m] obviously disappointed, but I thought the girls battled hard and grew into the game as it went.”
Although Friday’s regulation loss was the Cardinals’ first in nearly a year, Ball State still rides an eight-game win streak at home, dating back to a 3-0 loss against Bowling Green Sept. 23, 2018.
Heading into Sunday’s game at Florida Gulf Coast, Rife is hopeful the Cardinals will end their roadtrip with higher levels of focus and intensity.
“There’s not really a secret formula to winning games,” Rife said. “It’s just about who executes and who makes fewer mistakes in critical moments. We’re [in Florida] to play against two really good teams. They’re going to help make us better and more prepared for the rest of our season.”
The Cardinals will face the Eagles Sunday at 1 p.m.