March 19, 2011
Complete Results in PDF Format
MT. PLEASANT, Mich. -- The Northern Illinois gymnastics team believed it had saved its best performance of 2011 for last going into the 2011 Mid-American Conference Championship meet Saturday in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. NIU was coming off its highest score of the year and had seen its scores rise throughout the season, especially over the last month. Head coach Mark Sontag and his veteran team planned to continue that trend and show the rest of the league how far the Huskies had come.
Unfortunately, that is not the scenario that played out for the Huskies as Northern Illinois posted its lowest score since mid-February with a 191.475 to finish seventh in the meet. Northern Illinois, which opened the meet on floor exercise and vault, was unable to build momentum or break the 48-point mark on any individual event. NIU was hurt by several key "misses" on routines on nearly every event.
"Today was just not our day," Sontag said. "I feel like we've been progressing and excelling every performance through the whole season and then we got here and it didn't happen. Everybody is very disappointed and frustrated. After a long, hard, struggle to get back into being competitive after all the early-season injuries, we expected a much stronger finish. We have worked so, so hard to pull this season out, and that is what makes this so disappointing."
Northern Illinois, which began the meet on floor exercise, got its top performance on that event from sophomore Marisa Liptak (Kendall Park, N.J./South Brunswick HS), who turned in a 9.700 to tie for 22nd place on the day. Junior Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central HS) posted a 9.675, while Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) added a 9.600. The Huskies totaled a 47.975 on floor, its lowest floor total since Feb. 20.
The Huskies next went to vault, along with floor, the event most affected by the Huskies' injury woes this season. Freshman Sara Hernandez (Crown Point, Ind./Boone Grove HS) came through with a career best 9.700 to tie for 19th on the day and lead Northern Illinois, and senior Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Fremd HS) added a 9.650 to rank second on the Huskie team. NIU totaled a 47.750, again hearkening back to its mid-February totals.
"I felt like we started out pretty well on floor," Sontag said. "We competed well, we had a lot of energy and were looking good. On vault, we were OK. Sara hit her vault about as good as you can do that vault. But we had to count a lower score after a miss, too. I knew after we got done with vault that we would probably be in a position to have to catch up with our two best events coming up. I thought we were there, we were in pretty good shape, but that's probably the point where things went south on us."
NIU hoped to score well going into one of its strongest events on the season - the uneven parallel bars. However, the Huskies top two performers and event "anchors" on bars - junior Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS) and Reichard - scored just 9.150 and 9.300, respectively, and the Huskies were unable to gain any momentum. Junior Shonda Clore (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview HS) led NIU with a 9.725 to tie for 14th on the event while seniors Keiko Tanaka (Naperville, Ill./Waubonsie Valley HS) and Jessica Watanabe (Palatine, Ill./Palatine HS) contributed scores of 9.650 and 9.625, respectively.
"We went to bars and it started out looking great as they always do," Sontag recalled. "Then, we had Holly and Ashley miss their routines and that is very unexpected because they have been so rock solid and hit just about everything for us all year. That was the first time we really went off track of what I expected."
Reichard rebounded to put up a score of 9.800 on balance beam, the highest score of the day by any NIU gymnast, to tie for third place on the event. NIU also got a 9.650 from Rachan, while Sarah Hurley (Geneva, Ill./Geneva Community HS) and Guerra each scored a 9.625. However, Northern Illinois once again had to count a "miss" on the event and totaled a 47.950.
"It was nice to see both Holly and Ashley come back strong on beam," Sontag said. "Holly was obviously frustrated. She was having a day like the team was. All season, she had been having one better day after another and she had a rough one today. She had an uncharacteristic miss on bars and was able to come back and get her head together and do a really good routine on beam. It was good for our younger gymnasts to see that."
Despite the presence of four seniors in the NIU line-up, several of the Huskies' top performances on Saturday came from returning gymnasts, including Hernandez, Clore, Rachan and freshman Maggie Cimarolli (Belleville, Ill./Althoff Catholic HS), who led off the meet for NIU by tying her career best score on floor exercise and added a 9.500 on uneven parallel bars.
"Tanya had one of the more solid days for us and so did Maggie as she started us off as a freshman with a 9.525," Sontag said. "Maggie was a workhorse all year long.
"I saw a lot of heart out of our team this year. When you suffer those injuries (to three all-arounders) in the beginning of year, it's easy to lose your cool and give up on the season. We built ourselves back and were expecting to be competitive for the top spot coming into this meet. Today was just really disappointing and not at all [the result] we expected."
Northern Illinois completed its 2011 schedule with a 3-16 overall record. The Huskies will find out later this week if any of its gymnasts are selected for NCAA Regional competition.
-- NIU --
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