Jan. 17, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois gymnastics team rebounded from a rough outing on the uneven parallel bars with outstanding performances on the balance beam and floor exercise to claim a 190.600-189.675 come-from-behind victory over Western Michigan Sunday at the NIU Convocation Center.
The victory improved NIU's overall record to 2-0 and gave the Huskies a 1-0 start in Mid-American Conference competition. Western Michigan fell to 1-4, 1-1 MAC.
Trailing the Broncos by 1.250 points after the second rotation of the day, NIU pulled out the win in the last rotation as the Huskies' final three gymnasts posted the best scores of their respective careers on floor exercise, while four of the Broncos' six gymnasts fell off the balance beam. Huskie senior Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS) and sophomore Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central) capped the comeback with back-to-back scores of 9.825 on floor exercise to tie for first on the event, while freshman Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) preceded them with a 9.700, good for fourth place.
"We put ourselves in a hole after bars, which is unusual," said NIU Head Coach Mark Sontag. "Plus, we are still shorthanded, so that made our challenge even tougher. I'm very proud of the whole team. Every member stepped up and that's what we had to have."
Northern Illinois was rock-solid on the balance beam in the third rotation with five scores between 9.525 and 9.750, led by Rachan's 9.750, which tied for first on the day. Sarah Hurley (Geneva, Ill./Geneva Community HS) tied for third with a 9.675 on beam.
"Tanya came up and hit two great sets [on beam and floor] and that is what this team is about. We knew we weren't done [after bars], we're not done until the lights are off in the gym," Sontag said. "I knew first we had to hit beam. Once we hit beam, I thought we had enough [to get the win] if we could hit floor. And that's exactly what happened. It was an exciting meet."
Sutter, in just her second collegiate meet, tied Blum and WMU's Kristine Garbarino for the vault title.
Competing as an all-arounder for just the second time, Blum recorded a career best 38.600 to take second behind Garbarino, who scored a 38.925.
Still missing several injured gymnasts from the line-up, Northern Illinois welcomed back all-arounder and 2009 MAC Gymnast of the Year Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Fremd HS) on bars. The junior took second in the event with a 9.700.
The Huskies' improved from last week by more than two points. Sontag sees nothing but more improvement from his team as the season continues.
"We have an extremely talented group that is focused and motivated," said the 11-year Huskie coaching veteran. "I feel confident about the season, I feel confident about this team. Our best - and we haven't come close to it yet - is going to be pretty good."
Northern Illinois goes on the road for the first time this season next Sunday as the Huskies will face MAC foe Bowling Green in Bowling Green, Ohio. NIU's next home meet is Sunday, Jan. 31 versus Ball State.
-- NIU --
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