Abbie Boswell’s goal in the 21st minute proved to be all the Cardinals needed to finish off the regular season at 14-3-2 and put an exclamation point on their best MAC campaign ever at 10-1.
“We’re delighted,” Ball State coach Craig Roberts said. “The girls truly deserve everything we have achieved so far. We’ve worked hard every single game, every single practice to improve ourselves. I just really felt we were deserving today.”
The Cardinals led the conference season wire-to-wire and will now be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament. They will host a quarterfinal game Sunday at 1 p.m. against an opponent that will be determined later Thursday evening. If they advance, they will host the semifinals and finals Nov. 6-8.
For the first time all season an opponent had more shots than Ball State, but it didn’t matter. Alyssa Heintschel made four saves, and the Cardinals fought off 12 total shot attempts and eight corner kick opportunities for Miami. It was their third straight shutout and fifth in the past seven games.
“Our defense was very consistent with what they needed to do,” Roberts said. “They were tested at times by Miami trying to break us down, but they really dealt well with everything they threw at us.”
Miami (10-7-1, 6-4-1 MAC) entered the game tied for the MAC East Division lead and playing for the chance to host a tournament game. The RedHawks were up to the task for most of the contest, allowing only six shots for a Ball State team that entered the game 11th in the country in shots per game.
The decisive goal came on a first-half free kick near midfield. Lauren Hall sent the ball to Boswell at the top of the 18-yard box. Boswell turned and placed a shot past diving Miami goalkeeper Vic Maniaci. It was the 10th goal of the year for the freshman from Woodridge, Ill.
“We knew it was going to be a good game,” Roberts said. “Both teams are systematically matched up, so it was going to be pretty hectic in the midfield. We just knew we were going to have to fight to create opportunities within the game. Obviously, Abbie Boswell stepped up again. You give that girl just a bit of free space and she punishes you.”
Miami picked up its attack in the second half and especially down the stretch, trying to even the game. Heintschel made a save and came out to defend a threatening cross in the final five minutes to keep the RedHawks off the scoreboard. Miami then had a chance in the closing seconds, but a header off a corner kick sailed wide.
The final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Cardinals stormed the field like they did just four days ago when an overtime win over Buffalo kept them atop the standings and gave them a chance to clinch the title Thursday.
Ball State won the MAC regular season championship for the third time in the 17-year history of the program and the first since the Cardinals won back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. The team will now try to earn the program’s first MAC Tournament title and a spot the NCAA Tournament.
Article Courtesy: Ball State Athletics (www.ballstatesports.com)