In their quarter-final Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament appearance, No. 3 seed Ball State fell to No. 6 seed Ohio, 2-0.
This loss ends their season and MAC tournament run. Overall, Ball State's final record on the season is 8-8-3 and 6-3-3 in the MAC. Today was only the Cardinals' second loss at home all year.
Regardless of today's result, head coach Josh Rife is extremely proud of his team and their play this season.
“I think how the season started to how it kind of grew throughout the year and kind of where we positioned ourselves here at the end, I couldn't be more proud of this group that just stayed, bought in, and committed,” Rife said.
From the beginning of today's match, the game opened up for both teams offensively. The Bobcats capitalized on this early, taking advantage of their ability to counterattack and scoring 15 minutes in.
After this goal, the game entered a stalemate with both teams unable to maintain effective possessions. A handful of corner kicks helped accelerate Ball State's offense with under 20 to go in the first half. Even with this momentum, the Cardinals ultimately could not produce an equalizer before the halftime break.
To begin the second, Ball State continued to create offensive opportunities for themselves. Ohio countered and cut off the Cardinal wings and forced isolation for junior forward Lexi Fraley.
Even with Fraley being forced into this uncomfortable position, she was able to produce some looks. Ohio's defensive line shut down these opportunities, along with sophomore goalkeeper Celeste Sloma. With just under 12 minutes left in the match, Ohio capitalized off a counterattack again, scoring on junior goalkeeper Bethany Moser once more.
This is where the Cardinals season ended.
“There's a lot of moments where they could have just kind of called it a day and packed it up,” Rife said. “ I think you look at the group and some of the different personnel injuries and adversity we had to overcome. Again, to finish third in the conference… That's not an easy feat.”
Defensively, freshman Audrey Goodyear took care of attacking Bobcats on the wing today. Next to her was fellow defender, senior Jordyn Jeffers, who was another key part of Ball State's backline. In this game, there were multiple moments where Jeffers was the last line of defense for the Cardinals. Across all of those instances, she came up with saves and clears every time.
Making just her sixth appearance on the season today due to injury, Jeffers spoke on what this year has meant to her due to the adversity she has faced.
“It’s been a long road getting back and I know what I am capable of, I can do it in my sleep at this point,” Jeffers said. “I felt good out there and I was happy that I could make those key defensive plays.”
Jeffers also touched on how as a senior, she is grateful to have spent her last four years at Ball State as she, and her senior class, have endured a lot.
“We've all been through a lot together to make championships,” Jeffers said. “We've faced a lot of adversity this year and I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else by my side.”
Junior midfielder Kaitlyn Fraser was forced to play center back today due to pressure from Ohio forwards. Regardless of this, she was still able to get up the field and attack at different points in the match. Her contributions on the defensive and offensive side of the ball were another key part of the Cardinals' play today.
“I thought we had a really good run and I thought we were gonna make it further than we did,” Fraser said. “I put my all into it. I know everyone else put their all into it and it is really tough to see this.”
“I hate this feeling. I hate hearing them cheer, being so happy and everything,” Fraser said. “Going into my senior year, I am using that and helping others remember what this felt like.”
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