MUNCIE, Ind. -- Through its eight non-conference games this season, the Ball State soccer team put together the best record in the Mid-American Conference.
Ball State has out-scored its opponents by a margin of 12-5, posted four shutouts and managed the best goals-against average in the conference at 0.59. The Cardinals have allowed more than one goal in only one game.
They hope those types of performances will carry over to league play, which begins this weekend on the road. Ball State will take its 5-2-1 record to Buffalo for a 7:30 p.m. matchup Friday at UB Stadium and then head to Akron for a 1 p.m. contest Sunday at First Energy Stadium.
The trip to face a pair of MAC East Division teams will conclude a stretch of five straight road games for Ball State, which has not played at home since Sept. 8.
The Cardinals have been off since last Friday’s 1-1 draw on a soggy evening at IUPUI. Kelsey Shapiro scored the Ball State goal, becoming the eighth Cardinal to find the find the back of the net this season.
A total of 13 Cardinals have recorded either a goal or an assist, led by Kelsey Wendlandt with three goals. Defensively, Shapiro has played every minute to anchor a stout back line, while goalkeepers Layne Schramm and Brooke Dennis each ranked among the top three in the MAC in goals against average.
Ball State will look to continue a trend of improvement in MAC play. The team finished 5-5-3 in conference games last season for its best league mark since the 2007 team won the regular-season title at 9-1-1.
Last year’s MAC record included 2-1 home victories against both of this weekend’s opponents. The Cardinals prevailed in the final 10 minutes of both games, topping Buffalo on a penalty kick by Pavla Benyrova and Akron on a late goal from Cailey Starck.
Ball State is 7-5-2 all-time against Buffalo, but the Bulls own a 4-2-1 advantage on their home field. The Cardinals are 6-2-3 against Akron, including a 2-2-2 mark when playing the Zips on the road.
Buffalo enters conference play at 3-2-2, coming off at 2-1 loss to Niagara. Before that, the Bulls strung together three straight shutouts, one resulting in a victory and two in draws. Buffalo has played low-scoring games this year, tallying just five goals but allowing only five all season. Goalkeeper Ainsley Wheldon owns a goals against average of 0.65 and a save percentage of .848.
Akron is 3-3-2 and will play Friday against Miami University before Ball State visits. Freshman Sarah Sivic leads the Zips in both goals (four) and assists (four), ranking among the top five in the MAC in both categories. Akron has scored the third-most goals in the league with 13 through eight games.
Fans can follow the action this weekend through streaming video for both games at mac-sports.com. Live stats will also be available for Friday’s game at buffalobulls.com and for Sunday’s contest at gozips.com.