Feb. 6, 2009
DeKALB, ILL.- With two wins at home in the first two meets of the season, the Northern Illinois gymnastics team (2-0, 2-0) will look to build on that momentum when they compete in their first road meet of the season at Ball State (1-2, 0-2) on Sunday. The Mid-American Conference dual meet begins at 1 p.m. (Central) at Worthern Arena in Muncie, Ind.
As a result of their strong showings in the first meets of the season, the Huskies are currently ranked 26th in the nation, with a team score average of 193.900, and are the top MAC team.
"We pay attention to the rankings, especially since the top 36 teams go on to post-season regionals," said head coach Mark Sontag. "It is going to be a race. Every team in the country is going to start building those scores, and if we stay exactly where we are, we are not going to get where we want to be. We have to continue to improve to get to where we want to be--the NCAA's and the MAC championship."
NIU started the season with victories over MAC foes Bowling Green (193.450-191.875) and Eastern Michigan (194.350-192.625). As a team, the Huskies tallied an impressive vault score of 48.875 against Eastern Michigan, to earn second-highest team score on the event in school history.
Individually, sophomore Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Palatine Fremd HS) received MAC Gymnast of the Week honors, and junior Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS) MAC Specialist of the Week honors, for their strong performances in the Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan meets, respectively. The Huskies will look to replicate these impressive performances when they face Ball State on Sunday.
"I think the wins build confidence," Sontag said. "When you know you can go out there and get the job done, and you have the athletes that are performing their routines at a high level two meets in a row, it gives you a lot of confidence on the road."
With the Huskies third competition against a MAC team, the mindset and focus going into the Ball State meet remains the same.
"We continue to focus on the same thing we have been focusing on since early December," Sontag said. "We concentrate on really making those areas of our routines where we are still receiving a small deduction better."
"There are about three or four schools in the MAC that are going to be neck-and-neck for those top three spots this year. It is probably going to come down to several tenths between those spots. Any little tenth we can get out of our routines will bring us one step closer to where we want to be."
Following Sunday's meet, the Huskies will have only a short rest before they face the University of Illinois-Chicago in a dual meet on Friday, February 13 at 7 p.m. at UIC.