Perseverance was the key for Ball State (5-2-1) in its 1-0 victory over Northern Illinois (1-8) Thursday afternoon.
Head coach Josh Rife was proud of the resolve and determination the Cardinals showed.
“Northern Illinois, they're always gonna be pretty disciplined. They're going to fight hard,” Rife said. “The game definitely got more difficult as it went on. From the start, though, I generally think that we played well enough to deserve to win.”
Through the first 80 minutes, the game was scoreless. Ball State totaled 12 shots throughout the game, including eight on goal, but did not produce any points until late in the second half.
“We are pleased with the opportunities that we're creating,” Rife said. “I think that there are times when maybe we are looking for the perfect shot, when we might just need to settle for a good chance and take calculated risks, especially in front of the goal. That's always a better problem to figure out.”
Those offensive opportunities finally translated to the scoreboard at the 83:37 mark, when senior midfielder Melissa Diceman scored on the Cardinals 10th corner of the day. Diceman, who had had two goals entering the day, happened to score both of those in the 2-0 win against Northern Illinois on March 18.
Unlike Ball State, Northern Illinois only managed three shots, with one on goal.
Ball State needed to win if they hoped to keep its Mid-American Conference Championship hopes alive. In the last week of the regular season, the Cardinals control their own fate.
“A loss right now really takes us out of contention,” Rife said. “I think as a team, we just kind of said this is like the playoffs, these are must-win games. As a coach, it's great to know that you're helping provide some extra motivation, but they're not relying on us for the motivation. They're motivating themselves, so it's been really great.”
Ball State returns home for its season finale Sunday, April 11, against Eastern Michigan (6-2). The Cardinals won the first matchup 2-1 on March 21. The winner will take home first place in the West Division and advance to the MAC Championship on April 17.