The Eastern Michigan University women’s soccer team fell for the first time in conference play, losing to Ball State University 1-0 on Oct. 11 at Scicluna Field. The loss also snapped Eastern’s six-game winning streak.
The game was defensively dominated as the two teams combined for only six shots on goal. For EMU (7-5-1, 4-1-0 Mid-American Conference), sophomore goalkeeper Megan McCabe stopped two of the three shots she faced, while her counterpart, senior goalkeeper Layne Schramm, stopped all three shots for Ball State (9-3-1, 4-1-0 MAC).
“Give Ball State some credit today, but we definitely lacked quality today,” EMU head coach Scott Hall said. “The quality of decisions, the quality of play has to be better, and I don’t think it was there today.”
Offensively, the Eagles outshot BSU 14-10, but could not capitalize on the opportunities. Senior midfielder Cara Cutaia recorded all three shots on goal, six in all, for EMU. Junior forward Bianca Rossi added four shots in the losing effort.
The lone goal of the game was scored on a Ball State free kick by junior midfielder Victoria Jacobs, her third of the season. The goal was assisted by freshman defenseman Leah Mattingly.
EMU dominated the first 10 minutes of possession, working the ball through the Cardinals defense with timely passes and runs. However, Ball State stymied any opportunities EMU could muster in the final third, forcing them into shots off target.
BSU mustered some pressure of their own in the 12th minute after junior forward Jasmine Moses found a gap in the Eastern defense, but her long range try fell harmlessly into McCabe’s hands. Ball State earned the first corner kick of the game in the 14th minute and nearly converted on the try, but EMU’s defense swallowed up the loose ball and cleared it out of harm’s way.
The Eagles defense was not as fortunate in the 29th minute as it was Ball State who would strike first. The Cardinals were awarded a free quick after an Eastern handball and the ensuing Mattingly kick found Jacobs, whose header hit the back of the net, giving Ball State the 1-0 lead.
Rossi nearly leveled the game in the 36th minute, when Cutaia played a ball over the top of the BSU defense. Rossi beat her defender and got her feet to the ball, but her shot sailed over the bar. Her chance would be the last of the half for either side, and the game went to the break 1-0 in favor of Ball State.
“It was just a very intense game,” Rossi said of her team’s performance. “In the future, we need to get past those [things] that can frustrate us and keep working together as a team.”
EMU came out aggressive to start the second half in an attempt to tie the game early on by throwing numbers into the Ball State final third, and the pressure nearly paid off.
In the 47th minute, Cutaia corralled a loose ball and let a shot fly that would have found the back of the net, had it not been for Schramm’s timely save. Rossi got in on the pressure in the 53rd minute with a shot of her own, but the forward was unlucky as her attempt found the crossbar and caromed out of play.
Ball State dropped into a defensive-minded formation as EMU continued to press the Cardinals for the equalizing goal. A corner kick in the 66th minute nearly lead to an Eagles goal, but Schramm came up with another big save on Cutaia’s header. EMU earned back-to-back corner kicks in the 68th and 69th minute, but neither try hit the net.
Frustration and desperation began to set in on the EMU attack as the BSU defense disrupted any buildup attempted and forced them into some untimely errors in critical moments. EMU finally built in a threatening play in the 81st minute, but junior midfielder Martha Stevens’ shot sailed over the crossbar and the chance proved to be the last one EMU could muster, sealing the 1-0 Ball State victory.
“We still have a lot more MAC games and tough competition coming our way,” Cutaia said. “We just need to stay level headed and not let it effect us so we can move forward.”
Last season, Ball State handed Eastern their first MAC Conference loss in a 1-0 victory at the Briner Sports Complex. The Eagles were sporting a 4-0-0 record heading into that game, the same record as this season.
It was only the second game of the season that the Eagles failed to score a goal, the first on Sept. 6 at Indiana University.
Follow Josh Dye on Twitter @JdyeEMUEcho.