With big games come big moments.
Ball State (4-1-1 MAC) took advantage of its moments Friday afternoon as the Cardinals defeated Central Michigan (4-2 MAC) 2-1 in overtime.
“One of the things we talked about is, ‘You can't be afraid of the moments,’” head coach Josh Rife said. “Hopefully, the lesson we learned today is that we can play in these big moments and have the ability to rise to the occasion.”
Central Michigan, who entered Friday’s matchup first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division, previously defeated Ball State in overtime March 7. In a rematch nearly three weeks later, overtime was needed once more. Though this time around, the Cardinals made the better use of the extra time.
With 97:35 on the clock in overtime, junior midfielder/forward Tatiana Mason received a transition pass from junior midfielder Nicky Potts. From there, Mason took a few more steps forward and then sent off a shot from the lower right corner for the game-sealing goal.
“[Mason] just did the work to get herself in a good spot, and Nicky found her,” Rife said. “At that point, I feel good in that situation — one-on-one with the goalkeeper… I know she's a kid who puts in a lot of work every day and is pretty hard on herself.”
Following Mason’s goal, her teammates rushed onto the field, crowded around her and celebrated. They had just gained sole possession of first place in the MAC West Division. Rife said he and his players knew what was on the line coming into Friday’s game, but he did not let the weight of the game control their play.
“The focus throughout the game was pretty awesome,” Rife said. “Credit to the ladies — they understood what was on the line but still went out, executed and played really well. The energy on the bench was great the entire game, and from start to finish, it was a wonderful effort by the team today.”
The other Cardinal goal came at the 18th minute mark of the first half, when junior midfielder Chelcy Ralph scored her first goal of the season. The assist came from Potts, whose two-assist outing notched her a new career-high in assists in one match.
Chippewas sophomore forward Lauren DeBeau converted on a goal at the 61st minute mark in the second half, which eventually forced overtime.
Central Michigan tallied nine shots, including four on goal, but were only able to produce one goal out of those opportunities. Overall, Rife said he liked the way his defense stood its ground over the course of the game.
The Cardinals control their own fate with four games remaining on their regular season schedule. If they win out, they advance to the MAC Championship game April 17.
“We put ourselves in position to control our destiny,” Rife said. “Obviously, if we don't take care of business, that's on us. This was a big win, but it was just one piece of the puzzle. We still have games left that we need to go finish, and we need to execute.”
The Cardinals will shift their focus to Wednesday, March 31, when they face Toledo (0-4-1 MAC). Ball State won the first meeting 2-0 March 4.