MUNCIE, Ind. -- Two goals in the final 15 minutes of play Friday gave the Ball State soccer team a 2-1 victory over Buffalo in its Mid-American Conference opener at the Briner Sports Complex.
Michelle Blok scored off a set piece in the 76th minute to tie the game, and Pavla Benyrova converted a penalty kick five minutes later for what proved to be the game-winner. Freshman forward Morgan Whitfield drew the fouls that set up both Ball State goals.
The Cardinals (4-3-2) are now 1-0 to open the MAC schedule, while Buffalo (2-6-1) is 0-1 to begin league play. Ball State continues the conference slate Sunday, hosting Akron at 2 p.m. That game will air live on Sports Link Radio 91.3 FM WCRD with the broadcast also streamed on the live events page of ballstatesports.com.
Whitfield came off the bench to provide some offensive punch with two shots in the first half, but it was her attacking in the second half that helped make the difference. She gave the Cardinals a look at a free kick with fewer than 15 minutes remaining that tied the game 1-1.
"I went out there just trying to put it in the back of the net," Whitfield said. "I've been trying to go forward more and be more attacking. I was really just trying to dribble it through everybody and got clipped on the ankle."
Junior midfielder Maimee Morris stepped in for the free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and almost evened the score herself. But when her shot bounced back off the crossbar, Blok was there for the rebound to put it in. It was the first career goal for Blok, a junior defender from Noblesville, Ind.
Just five minutes after Blok's goal, Whitfield drew another foul. This one came just inside the top right corner of the box to earn a penalty kick. Benyrova took the kick and beat Buffalo's Ainsley Wheldon, one of the league's top goalkeepers, to put the Cardinals on top.
"I didn't think it was our best performance today," Ball State coach Craig Roberts said. "I felt as the game went on we came out of our shell al little bit more, but we definitely need to have more energy going into MAC games if we're going to be victorious."
Last year's meeting between Ball State and Buffalo ended in a scoreless draw, and it looked for a while like Friday's game might be heading for the same type of finish. Each team had only a few scoring chances in the first half and the game was still scoreless 10 minutes into the second.
The Bulls found the scoreboard first when Courtney Mann connected in the 56th minute on a deflected cross from teammate Natalie Jurisevic. Mann was one of three Buffalo players to record a pair of shots in the game.
Blok, Whitfield, Morris and Nicole Pembleton recorded two shots each for Ball State. The Cardinals narrowly out-shot Buffalo, 10-9, with seven of those 10 shots coming from players off the bench.
Ball State goalkeeper Aubrey Buehler finished with four saves, including huge saves early in both halves on tough shots from Buffalo. Wheldon recorded two saves for the Bulls.
Ball State became just the third team this season to score multiple goals against Buffalo, while the Bulls became the seventh Ball State opponent in the past eight games to score one goal or fewer against the Cardinals.