Jan. 29, 2011
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois women's gymnastics team faces one of its toughest tests of the season Sunday as the Huskies travel to Mt. Pleasant, Mich. to face Central Michigan in that school's inaugural Royal Rumble and Tumble Meet at 1 p.m. in McGuirk Arena. In addition to the Northern Illinois-Central Michigan gymnastics meet, the CMU wrestlers will be taking on Old Dominion at the same time.
NIU enters the meet 1-3 overall, 1-1 versus Mid-American Conference competition, while CMU is 7-0, 1-0 and will be competing in their newly-renovated home arena for the first time in 2011.
The Huskies are coming off their first victory of the season as Northern Illinois defeated Bowling Green at Victor E. Court last Sunday, and NIU Head Coach Mark Sontag believes the confidence gained from that performance will carry over to the CMU meet.
"I think last weekend was huge for us," Sontag said. "We were poised and confident. Now we have a good meet behind us, we've got some confidence under our belt and we're ready to go. If everyone does their job, we'll be in good shape. I anticipate us going out and having a great meet."
Northern Illinois posted its season best scores on vault, uneven parallel bars and balance beam a week ago and look to improve on the 188.675 team total. However, the Huskies will go into the CMU meet short-handed due to early-season injuries which have sidelined or limited all-arounders Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) and Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central HS), as well as junior Shonda Clore (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview HS) and freshman Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS).
"We are OK, our line-up is still strong, but we need some time to get people back," Sontag said. "Our line-up is still strong, but we're in a spot in terms of our health where we can't afford to take a lot of chances. It's still about going out, getting the job done and hitting our routines. If we can get through this meet, we will be even better after the open week."
While senior all-arounder Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Fremd HS) and junior Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS) (bars and beam) have led the way in the Huskies' three meets so far, Sontag said that several gymnasts have practiced well this week and he looks for sophomore Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS), as well as seniors Jessica Watanabe (Palatine, Ill./Palatine HS) and Sarah Hurley (Geneva, Ill./Geneva Community HS), to bring those routines to Sunday's competition.
"Natalie Sutter has had a great week, she's really made a turn on vault and has worked really, really hard," Sontag said. "Jessica Watanabe and Sarah Hurley - two of our veterans - have come along this week. Those three have really been made progress and been pushing and improving."
Central Michigan, along with Kent State, entered the 2011 season as the league's preseason favorites and the Chippewas will host the MAC Championships on Saturday, March 19. CMU has posted a team score of 193 or higher in each of its meets to date.
Northern Illinois will enjoy an open date next weekend before returning to competition on Sunday, Feb. 13 versus Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. The Huskies' next home meet is Sunday, Feb. 20 when NIU will play host to Kent State in the team's annual "Pink Meet" at the Convocation Center beginning at 2 p.m.
-- NIU -
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