MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- Second-half goals from Elaina Musleh and Gabby Veldman boosted the Ball State soccer team to a 2-1 road victory Sunday over Central Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Veldman’s game-winning goal came in the 87th minute of play and propelled the Cardinals into the MAC Tournament semifinals for just the third time ever and the first time since 2007.
“Our girls played really hard today all the way through,” Ball State coach Craig Roberts said. “We broke Central Michigan down and got it done. It was really a first-class performance.”
Ball State (11-6-3), the tournament’s No. 6 seed, advances to play second-seeded Miami University in Friday’s quarterfinal round on the campus of top seed Eastern Michigan. The championship game will be played Sunday, also at EMU.
The Cardinals reached the semifinals by avenging an overtime loss to Central Michigan on the same field just one week earlier. Neither team scored during regulation in that first game, and Sunday’s contest went scoreless through the first half.
Central Michigan (8-11-1) actually broke through first on a goal from Eliza Van de Kerkhove seven minutes into the second half, but the lead did not last. Musleh answered in the 65th minute for Ball State, taking a pass from Madison Oyer and scoring for the second straight game to tie things up.
The score was still tied and the game heading for overtime with just more than three minutes to play, but Veldman had other ideas. Oyer took a ball served into the box and fired an initial shot that hit off the cross bar, but Veldman was right there to knock the rebound home.
“The way we competed today is evidence of the development of this team,” Roberts said. “We never shut down even after we conceded a goal and fell behind.”
Ball State held on in the closing minutes to defeat a Central Michigan team that finished runner-up in last year’s MAC Tournament and played in the NCAAs. The Chippewas, which went 8-3 in conference play, entered the game having allowed just one goal in their previous seven contests.
Senior Layne Schramm earned the win in goal for the Cardinals, bouncing back with a strong performance after Ball State allowed a season-high three goals just three days earlier in the regular-season finale against Miami.
“I am very proud of the way Layne responded,” Roberts said. “I thought she was outstanding today and was an example to our younger players of how to come through in a clutch situation.”
Ball State was the only higher seeded team to win in Sunday’s quarterfinal round. The Cardinals join No. 1 seed Eastern Michigan, No. 2 seed Miami and No. 4 seed Western Michigan as the four remaining teams with hopes of claiming the MAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.