Northern Illinois defeated Ball State, 192.925-191.125, to earn its first Mid-American Conference win of the season.
Sam Morreale's connections to Northern Illinois University and the local community run deep. A former NIU gymnast himself who served as assistant coach for the women's gymnastics program for nine years, Morreale (MORE-ee-AL-ee) took over as head coach in June 2011.
In three seasons, the Addison, Illinois native has seen NIU post some of the best scores in school history. Over the past three years, the Huskies have earned three of the Top 10 team scores in school history in vault, balance beam and floor exercise, while also posting the fifth-best team score on the uneven parallel bars. NIU has recorded two of its best overall team totals, including the second-highest team score in school history, in Morreale's head coaching tenure.
Under his leadership, NIU gymnast Megan Melendez was named the Mid-American Conference Specialist of the Year in 2012 and Kim Gotlund earned first team All-MAC honors in 2013 after picking up a second team nod in 2012. In addition, seven NIU gymnasts have been selected to the Academic All-MAC team over the past two seasons.
The Huskie gymnastics program has continued to excel academically under Morreale's leadership as the team annually ranks among NIU Athletics' top squads in terms of cumulative grade point average. The Academic Progress Rate (APR) indicates that NIU gymnastics excels in both retention and graduation of its student-athletes.
From 2003 to 2011, Morreale served as assistant coach at NIU, where his duties included coaching the Huskies on the uneven parallel bars while coordinating recruiting efforts and handling administrative assignments.
During his time at NIU (2003-present), the Huskies have sent 17 gymnasts to NCAA Regional competition, most recently current senior Kim Gotlund (all-around) and 2012 senior Tanya Rachan (floor exercise). Under his tutelage, all-arounder Holly Reichard became a three-time NCAA all-around participant in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Morreale's protégés on bars have included a pair of MAC Champions in Ashlee Williams (2005) and Reichard (2008) as well as 2010 NCAA Regional qualifier Ashley Guerra. Since his arrival, NIU has posted its top eight all-time team totals on uneven parallel bars.
For Morreale, the position of head coach represents the next step in a relationship with Northern Illinois University that goes back 30 years, since he walked on to the men's gymnastics team in 1984. A native of Addison, Ill. who graduated from Addison Trail High School, he finished his NIU athletics career by earning a pair of letters and serving as team captain in 1986-87.
"From being a student-athlete here, to going to work in the private sector to returning as an assistant coach to now as head coach, I've always been a Huskie and always followed NIU Athletics," Morreale says. "I take pride in the program and look forward to bringing even more success to NIU Gymnastics, and greater recognition to the school."
Prior to coming to NIU as assistant coach on a full-time basis, Morreale served as program director of the Energym Sports Campus in Sycamore, Ill. for 19 years, where he led that facility's preschool and school age gymnastics programs while working alongside his brother, Andy. A professional member of U.S.A. Gymnastics, Morreale has worked numerous summer camps, state clinics and regional training camps.
He earned his bachelor's degree from NIU in family and individual development and is married to the former Lisa Swauger of Naperville, Ill., who serves as the coach of the NIU dance team, the Silverettes. The couple has three adult children, son Brandon and daughters Bailey and Brienne.