Jan. 30, 2014
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University Head Gymnastics Coach Sam Morreale doesn't want to talk about who's missing from his Huskie line-up entering Saturday night's meet versus Western Michigan at the NIU Convocation Center.
Even though NIU will be without several of its top upperclassmen entering the 7 p.m. Mid-American Conference match-up at Victor E. Court, Morreale and his team have adopted a "next woman up" mentality, whether it is on the vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam or floor exercise. Anyone NIU puts on any event will be expected to perform, said Morreale.
"We're going to put up 24 good routines," Morreale said. "Everybody that's on the roster can contribute. If it's their turn to step up and hit a routine, then that's what they've got to do. I still think we have great scoring potential, it goes back to us hitting our routines. The gymnasts who haven't been in line-up are hungry to get there and several are going to get opportunities this weekend."
NIU (1-1 overall, 1-0 MAC) is led by senior all-arounder Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS), who has eight solid routines under her belt in the Huskies' opening two meets, including a career-high 9.800 on bars at Nebraska. Gotlund won the all-around competition and placed in the top three in three events last week in the Huskies' win over Ball State.
Stepping up alongside Gotlund has been sophomore Jaelyn Olsen (Bethany, Okla./Putnam City West HS), who established herself as NIU's top vaulter a year ago. Olsen has continued to excel on vault with scores of 9.825 and 9.775 this season, and is developing into one of the Huskies' go-to performers on balance beam. She won beam with a career-best 9.700 in the Huskies' win over Ball State.
"Jae is really starting to solidify her status on vault and beam," Morreale said. "Kim is going to lead the way along with the rest of our upperclassmen, and then we're going to see more of the freshmen stepping in and proving themselves. The experience they are gaining now is only going to help us in the future. "
Freshman Courtney Dowdell (Lynwood, Ill./T.F. South HS) has started her NIU career showing the ability to score well as she put up marks 9.700 (vault), 9.675 (bars) and 9.650 (floor) last week.
Three freshmen have already been in the Huskie line-up this season and two more - Taylor Crumley (Lincolnshire, Ill./Stevenson HS) on beam and Brittany Wenzel (Hilliard, Ohio/Davidson HS) on vault are poised to join that group this weekend. The Huskies entered the season with one of its deepest teams in recent history and that depth is being put to the test early in 2014.
"Everyone can contribute, now it's a matter of stepping up and getting the job done," Morreale said. "We're down a couple of people, but we're not that far off of where we started. It's not about who is out there, whoever is there, we need to land better, have better form and not miss."
Western Michigan (0-4, 0-2 MAC) recorded its season best team total of 192.100 last weekend in a home loss to Kent State. The Broncos are the defending MAC Champions.
"I'm excited to get back out against another MAC team," Morreale said. "It's good to measure yourself against a team we're going to see again.
Admission to all NIU gymnastics meets is free for 2014 and free parking is also available. The meet will be streamed live on NIUTube on NIUHuskies.com (subscription) and live scoring will be available (link will be made live here when available). On Twitter, follow frequent scoring updates @NIUscores.
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