Feb. 14, 2013
DeKALB, Ill. - After posting a season-best score of 194.025 at Central Michigan last week, the Northern Illinois gymnastics team has designs on even higher marks as they take on Iowa State in Ames, Iowa this Friday. The meet begins at 6:30 p.m. (CT) at Hilton Coliseum and will be televised live online on Cyclones.tv (subscription required) and in Iowa on Mediacom Channel 22.
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Northern Illinois (3-2, 1-2 MAC) put together its best meet of the season versus No. 21 Central Michigan last Friday as the Huskies scored 48.300 or higher on all four events and were within striking distance of the Chippewas entering the final rotation. Iowa State (2-5, 0-2 Big 12) is also coming off its best score of the year as the Cyclones tallied 194.825 points in a loss at West Virginia.
Senior Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) and freshman Jaelyn Olsen (Bethany, Okla./Putnam City West HS) led the Huskies at CMU. Sutter won the floor exercise with a career-high mark of 9.875 while Olsen tied for first on vault with a career-best score of 9.825. The Huskies also got a 9.800 on floor exercise from Marisa Liptak (Kendall Park, N.J./South Brunswick HS), and 9.775s on both uneven parallel bars and balance beam from Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS). NIU's 194.025 mark was 1.150 points higher than its previous season best.
The Huskies are 3-2 overall on the season, and are looking for their first road win of 2013 in Ames. Unable to control what's happening on the other side of the gym when Iowa State is competing, the key to a successful meet will be Northern Illinois hitting its routines, said NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale.
"Honestly, [winning] starts with us hitting [our routines]," Morreale said. "If we hit the 194 mark, we'll push them hard. We're comparable teams. It's definitely a challenge because they have regional experience, and they are a team that gets better as the year progresses just like we are. Everything starts with us taking care of our routines and getting that 194 again and putting the pressure on them."
Morreale likes what he has seen out of his leaders through the first half of the season, both in meets and in practice. Sutter and junior Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS), NIU's all-arounders, have consistently scored in the high 38s when they have hit, while Melendez has cracked the Huskie line-up on vault in the last two meets and is now competing on three events. Her average scores on both bars (9.625) and beam (9.765) lead Northern Illinois. Liptak owns the top floor exercise average (9.735) on the team and Olsen the top vault (9.745).
"I think as a group, everyone is trying to up their game and we are getting that competition at the bottom of our line-up which is pushing the top half to do well," Morreale said. "We had another good week of paying attention to small things and correcting the little mistakes. At this point of the season, it's all about detail work. I expect everyone to have a good day Friday."
The Iowa State meet marks the start of the second half of the 10-meet regular season. By the time Northern Illinois reaches the MAC Championships on March 23, Morreale wants to see the 194.025 from the Central Michigan meet become the norm, or even the lowest score counted toward regional qualifying.
"We're trying to keep that same intensity [from the Central Michigan meet] moving forward," Morreale said. "We're not relaxing because we went 194, we're trying to raise the bar. We'd like that to be our lowest score when all is said and done but we have to stay within ourselves."
Following Friday's Iowa State meet, the Huskies return to the NIU Convocation Center for its next two competitions as the Huskies will host league favorite Kent State on Friday, March 1 and Eastern Michigan on Sunday, March 10.
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