MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State soccer team ran its winning streak to four straight Mid-American Conference games with a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 victory over visiting Akron Friday afternoon at the Briner Sports Complex. The Cardinals scored two goals in the final 10 minutes of action to improve to 9-4-1 on the year and 4-1-0 in MAC play.
The victory give the Cardinals nine victories in a season for the first time since 2008 and their four MAC wins are also the most since 2008 (five). Ball State's four-game winning streak is its longest streak since 2007 and the first time the Cardinals have won four straight league games since 2006. Additionally, the victory was the 50th career victory for head coach Craig Roberts, who is in his second season at the helm of the Cardinals.
"We never lost heart and focus in the second half as we knew it would be a tough, hard-fought, one-goal game," Roberts said. "We showed a lot of character and determination to make a comeback like we did today. We played with maturity and perseverance, as we never doubted our capability to come from behind and win."
Akron (5-5-1, 2-2-1 MAC) scored the game's first goal in the 22nd minute of play as it capitalized on one of its only chances in the first half. The Zips took advantage of the Ball State turnover at the top of the 18-yard box and Kara Cooper got behind the defense. Cooper made a couple of moves to beat another BSU defender and goalkeeper Aubrey Buehler (Waukesha, Wis./UT Martin) for her first goal of the season.
The Cardinals controlled play in the first half with a 9-4 advantage in shots but could not beat the Akron defense. Ball State mounted a furious rally in the second half, vying for the game-tying goal. The Cardinals' offensive pressure finally broke the backs of the Zips in the 80th minute.
Ball State was awarded a free kick just inside the center line. Junior defender Brigit Reder (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) sent a long cross into the top of the 18-yard box where junior Paige Stroinski (Granger, Ind./Penn) was able to flick the ball towards the back post.
Freshman midfielder Becca Sutton (Channahon, Ill./Minooka Community) beat Akron goalkeeper Jeny Wolbert to the back post and her header found of the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1. The goal was the second of Sutton's career while it raised Reder's team-leading point total to 14 points on the year.
Ball State dominated play down the stretch as it built off the momentum, never allowing Akron out of its own end in the closing 10 minutes of regulation. The Cardinals' tenacity proved fruitful once again with the game-winning goal in the 86th minute of play.
Junior defender Skylar Chew (Mason, Ohio/Mason) found some free space on the attack from 40-yards out and sent a long cross into the box. Freshman forward Jasmine Moses (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) was the first player on the end of the cross, beating Wolbert to the spot.
Moses was able to one-touch the cross past Wolbert and the Akron defense for the go ahead goal. The goal was her sixth of the season, moving her into a tie for the team lead with Reder. She also leads the team and the MAC with four game-winning tallies.
Akron was unable to mount any comeback of its own in the final four minutes as the Cardinals maintained possession, running the clock down. The Cardinals posted a 19-7 advantage in shots, including a 10-3 edge in the second half comeback. Stroinski and freshman Pavla Benyrova (Prague, Czech Republic/Gymnasium Prague 9) led the attack with three shots apiece.
Buehler posted two saves in the victory as she improves to 7-3-1 on the year. Wolbert tallied six saves in the loss, falling to 5-4-1 on the season.
Ball State continues its four-game home stand Sunday afternoon as it hosts Ohio. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at the Briner Sports Complex.