6-0 in overtime games. 9-2 in Mid-American Conference play. Undefeated when scoring at least one gaol.
Despite Ball State Soccer’s (15-5, 9-3 MAC) regular season stats, the No. 2 Cardinals were upset by the No. 7 Eastern Michigan (7-11-2, 6-6 MAC) Sunday, suffering a 2-1 loss in the MAC Quarterfinals.
With the loss, Ball State was eliminated from the MAC Tournament. The Eagles snapped the Cardinals four-game win streak, and the loss was only the second for Ball State at home this season.
“In critical moments, [the Eagles] made some plays and we didn’t,” head coach Josh Rife said. “I thought we created enough, but at the end of the day, they made what we didn’t.”
For the Eagles, the win was their first in MAC Tournament play since a 3-0 defeat over Ohio on Nov. 3, 2013. Eastern Michigan jumped to a 1-0 lead on a goal from redshirt junior forward Sabrina McNeill at the 13th minute off a free kick.
The Eagles ended the first half up 7-2 in shots, taking their 1-0 lead into halftime. However, the Cardinals tied it up at the 59th minute, off a goal from senior forward Peighton Cook with sophomore defender Kerrigan Johnson assisting.
“We started to settle in a little more toward the second half,” Rife said, “and we tactically made some changes just to try to be a little smarter and safer. I think some of those changes in the second half allowed us to keep the ball a bit more, but it’s a MAC game. They’re all tough; they’re all going to be difficult.”
With 1:13 left in the game, junior defender Emily Simmons was called for a foul, resulting in an Eagles’ penalty kick. Eagles’ freshman midfielder/forward Amanda Cripps ultimately scored the game-winner off the kick. The Eagles outshot the Cardinals 16-8 and held possession for 55 percent of the game.
“There’s not much time left at that point,” Rife said. “You’re just trying to throw numbers forward, and you hope to get one there, but the ball was in our end a bit more than what we wanted.”
Rife said the loss was a tough one for the Cardinals’ five seniors, as well as graduate student goalkeeper Tristin Stuteville. While Ball State fell short of their ultimate goal in a MAC Championship with Sunday’s loss, Rife credits his seniors’ legacy and impact.
“I think this senior class has gone down as the most successful in program history,” Rife said. “We had 15 wins, we didn’t win a MAC Championship, but that’s an unbelievable feat. I’m proud of this group, a lot of grit, resolve, and toughness from them. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end [Sunday].”
Ending his first season with the Cardinals on Sunday, Rife said he won’t let this loss define his team or himself heading into next season.
“We’re just going to take some time and process this one,” Rife said. “We’ll regroup later.”