Ball State (3-1-1) earned a 2-1 win over Eastern Michigan (3-2) Sunday afternoon. In its first road win of the season, Ball State had to endure a scrappy Eastern Michigan team for 90 minutes.
“[Eastern Michigan] upped their intensity and physicality,” head coach Josh Rife said. “They were winning first balls and second balls. I think it took us by surprise a little bit.”
The Cardinals came up close multiple times, with eight shots on the goal resulting in no points. At the 28:15 point in the first half, Eastern Michigan senior Sabrina McNeill scored the game's first goal to put the Eagles up 1-0.
At halftime, head coach Josh Rife knew his team could erase the deficit, and the second half looked different.
Redshirt junior midfielder Nicky Potts tied the match at one apiece with a successful free kick at the 51:05 mark. A few minutes later, at the 62:58 mark, freshman forward Mac Henson scored on an assist from junior midfielder/forward Tatiana Mason. Both were the first goals of the season for both Henson and Potts.
“I think there was little bit of frustration on our end,” Rife said. “It was just more of us regaining some composure and making sure we go out and battle. Again, credit to the ladies, who went out and got a hard-fought victory.”
Rife was pleased with the Cardinals' physicality in the second half.
“We needed to make sure we matched the level of intensity and the level of physicality in the second half,” Rife said. “Everybody in the MAC is going to be good, and Eastern Michigan is obviously a great team, so they kept pressure on us. But I thought we were capitalizing more on our chances in that second half.”
The Cardinals totaled 20 shots, including eight on goal, while the Eagles managed to produce nine shots with six on goal. On the defensive end, senior goalkeeper Maitane Bravo finished with five saves tying season-high.
Ball State returns to Briner Sports Complex Friday, March 26, versus Central Michigan. The game will begin at 3 p.m. The Chippewas defeated the Cardinals in overtime 2-1 March 7. With the Mid-American Conference championship only consisting of the two teams with the top records this year, the rematch with Central Michigan could play a pivotal role in the standings.
“I think the reality is that game, we hold it in our hands, and that game is a big piece of it,” Rife said. “I think if we don't get the result we need on Friday, we're going to be looking for other people to help us out. This was a perfect game for us heading into Central.”