March 12, 2006
Kent, OH -- Facing the defending Mid-American Conference Gymnastics champion on its home turf with a make-shift line-up as a result of illness and injury could be enough to give a coach an ulcer.
Northern Illinois University gymnastics boss Mark Sontag may have felt as queasy as some of his flu-plagued gymnasts on Sunday (March 12), but he came out of the narrow loss -- 193.950 - 193.300 -- to Kent State University feeling much better.
"To be within six-tenths of Kent State with a bandaged line-up is really good. Considering how well KSU has been hitting its routines and did so again today, I feel a lot better after this meet than going in because I know we've got other gymnasts to count on," Sontag insisted. "It just proves that this whole team has so much heart. It continues to show how much we've jelled and how well we keep pushing each other to step up. With so many people nursing injuries or battling the flu, we did great. Not to sound too graphic, but we had one gymnast who couldn't keep food down, but that didn't keep her scoring down.
"Everything we did today just shows me that we're still improving and that we've yet to reach our potential. We've yet to have a healthy line-up," Sontag added.
KSU's Golden Flashes, who captured first place in the postseason meet last year held in DeKalb -- KSU's eighth overall since winning the initial MAC crown in 1981 -- chalked up a fifth straight victory in order to improve to 6-3 overall and 5-1 versus league opposition. The loss does dip NIU's ledgers to 2-7 overall and 2-4 for loop meets.
Although Kent State boasted the top individual gymnast for the all-around and three events, Northern Illinois managed to have three gymnasts among the top six scorers for each apparatus. Best of all, Jennifer Rice (Homewood / Homewood-Flossmoor) took first on the balance beam with a 9.850 while teammate Jennifer Naughton (Smithville, MO) was right behind at 9.800. NIU's Meghan Cronin (St. Charles / East) was fourth with a 9.750 as the Huskies outscored their hosts 48.650-48.175 for the beam.
Stacey Kalberg's 9.875 was the top tally for vault with NIU's Naughton and Amber Whitecotton
(Crystal Lake / South) sharing third with identical 9.750 tallies. On floor exercise, the Golden Flashes' Amy Cucinotta had the best score of 9.825 with Rice and Naughton sharing third at 9.725. For the uneven parallel bars, Kristin Peters paced KSU with a 9.900 while Ashlee Williams
(Liberty, MO / Senior) led the Huskies with 9.775 that tied her for third while Cronin was fifth at 9.700 and Allison Holysz
(Hoffman Estates / Palatine Fremd) was sixth at 9.650.
"Despite the flu, Jennifer Naughton really came through for us and Jennifer Rice had two really solid performances. Ashlee Williams was strong on bars for us, but every event included someone performing better than expected," Sontag said. "Once again knowing that we're capable of earning such a good road score even when we're not at our best is a real confidence booster."
Such a positive shot can't hurt with the Huskies pointing toward a strong finish to the regular season. First up is Saturday's (March 18) 7 p.m. State of Illinois Classic which takes place this year in Normal, IL. Illinois State University welcomes NIU, the University of Illinois, plus the University of Illinois-Chicago to determine the Division I gymnastics state crown. A week later, it's the MAC Championships in Kalamazoo, MI.
WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS -- Northern Illinois University at Kent State University / Kent, OH / Mid-American Conference Dual Meet / Sunday / March 12, 2006
KENT STATE 193.950, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 193.300
(at Kent, OH)
Vault: 1---Stacey Kalberg (KSU) 9.875; 2---Krisin Peters (KSU) 9.825; 3--(Tie)--Amber Whitecotton (NIU) / Jennifer Naughton (NIU), 9.750; 5---Carrie Mayle (KSU) 9.725; 6---Amy Ristvedt (NIU), 9.700. Other NIU Scores: Bethany Plapp 9.600; Tiffany Anderson 9.600. Team Score: KSU 48.750; NIU 48.400.
Uneven Parallel Bars: 1---Kristin Peters (KSU), 9.900; 2---Jill Kowalski (KSU), 9.850; 3--(Tie)--Ashlee Williams (NIU) / Julie Huynh (KSU) 9.775; 5---Meghan Cronin (NIU) 9.700; 6---Allison Holysz (NIU), 9.650. Other NIU Scores: Tiffany Anderson 9.550; Bethany Plapp 9.375; Jody Yednock 9.000. Team scores: KSU 48.475; NIU 48.050.
Balance Beam: 1---Jennifer RIce (NIU), 9.850; 2---Jennifer Naughton (NIU), 9.800; 3---Jill Kowalski (KSU) 9.775; 4---Meghan Cronin (NIU) 9.750; 5--(Tie)--Amy Cucinotta (KSU) / Kristin Peters (KSU), 9.725. Other NIU Scores: Jody Yednock 9.625; Amy Ristvedt 9.625; Amber Whitecotton 9.100. Team scores: NIU 48.650; KSU 48.175
Floor Exercise: 1---Amy Cucinotta (KSU), 9.825; 2---Laci Hendress (KSU), 9.800; 3--(TIe)--Jennifer Rice (NIU) / Jennifer Naughton (NIU) 9.725; 5---Julie Huynh (KSU) 9.675; 6--(Tie)--Bethany Plapp (NIU) / Jill Kowalski (KSU), 9.650. NIU Scores: Amber Whitecotton 9.600; Amanda Johnson 9.500; Kelly Kramer 8.875. Team scores: KSU: 48.550, NIU 48.200.
All-Around: 1---Jill Kowalski (KSU) 38.925; 2---Stacey Kalberg (KSU) 37.975.
Records to Date: NIU now 2-7 overall, 2-4 in MAC / KSU now 6-3 overall, 5-1 in MAC
Next Huskie Meets:
Saturday / March 18 -- Northern Illinois University at State of Illinois Classic, Normal, IL (Hosted by Illinois State University), 7 p.m.
Saturday / March 25 -- Northern Illinois University at Mid-American Conference Championships, Kalamazoo, MI (Hosted by Western Michigan University), 2 p.m.
(For further information, please contact Steve Nemeth) -30-