Cardinals headed to MAC Championship with win over Eastern Michigan

Ball State Soccer is headed to the Mid-American Conference Championship.

The Cardinals (6-2-1) defeated Eastern Michigan (6-3) 2-1 in a do-or-die game for Ball State. Junior midfielder Jenna Dombrowski led the Cardinals with a goal in the 18th minute of the first half and the 49th minute of the second. 

"[Dombrowski] has done a lot that hasn’t turned up in the box scores,” head coach Josh Rife said. “I couldn’t be happier for her. She is a great player, and she has been a huge part of what we have done so far. To see her rewarded with a couple of goals today is exciting.”

Her second goal was assisted by Junior defender Lexy Smith who hit the corner to the head of senior defender Shelby Kean who then passed it to Dombrowski for the goal. 

"I was just really happy I could put it in the back of the net today," Dombrowski said. "We really had been struggling with scoring off corners, so that was really exciting on the second one. It was just a really great team effort today from start to finish."

In the 81st minute, Eagles’ Sabrina McNeill hit in a goal, and Rife was proud of how Ball State was prepared for a battle, especially late in the game.

“We feel like we have prepared and game planned for those kinds of things,” Rife said. It gets really intense. The other team will turn the momentum. Eastern Michigan is a veteran team. They are really savvy and battle-tested. You know they won’t be shaken by those moments.”

The defense was able to keep Eastern Michigan from scoring in the final seconds, and once the clock hit zero, the Cardinals stormed the field as MAC West Champions. 

“Our group defensively answered the call,” Rife said. “There were some close moments there where I thought Eastern Michigan was going to get the equalizer. Defensively we kind of stayed strong and made enough plays.” 

The Cardinals will compete for the MAC Championship against Bowling Green for the second time in three years. Kickoff begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. 

Contact Ian Hansen with comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.

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