Feb. 14, 2014
NIU Live Streaming
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University gymnastics team steps out of conference and intra-state competition this week when the Huskies play host to Iowa State, Texas Woman's University and Wisconsin-Whitewater in a quadrangular meet at the NIU Convocation Center Sunday. Designated as the Huskies annual "Pink Meet," the action-packed event featuring a team on every apparatus simultaneously gets underway at 1 p.m.
NIU (2-2 overall, 2-1 MAC) posted its highest team score of the season with a 193.375 last Friday in a loss at No. 25 Kent State. Seniors Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) and Natasha Jufko (Spring Hill, Fla./Pasco-Hernando HS) along with sophomore Jaelyn Olsen (Bethany, Okla./Putnam City West HS) have been NIU's most consistent performers in the all-around, on balance beam and on vault, respectively. Jufko was named the Mid-American Conference Specialist of the Week and has claimed the beam title in each of NIU's last two meets.
NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale is looking for more gymnasts to step up as the team chases its first 194 overall score of the season.
"I am looking for everyone to have a break out meet based on the training this week," he said. "The team is ready [to show improvement] too. They don't want to be where we have been; the push [toward postseason] is on. The only way we are going to get where we want to be - that's at 194 or above - is together. Everyone has to pull her weight."
Iowa State (2-4 overall, 1-1 Big 12) enters the meet ranked No. 32 in the country after recording a season-best score of 196.025 last week in a win over West Virginia. Texas Woman's University, which took on UIC in Chicago on Friday, entered the weekend 3-2 on the season. TWU earned its season-best score of 194.250 earlier this year in a win over Air Force. Wisconsin-Whitewater was a late addition to Sunday's meet after their previously scheduled opponent cancelled due to travel and weather problems. The Warhawks are 7-3 overall with a season-best score of 191.075.
After four consecutive dual meets to start the season, Morreale said the experience of competing in a quadrangular meet will benefit the Huskies in the future.
"When you are the home team, the format doesn't affect you too much because we'll be going in Olympic order (vault, bars, beam, floor)," Morreale said. "It's good experience because it is a lot more like championships and teams like to get that kind of experience. We are going into Sunday with a positive feeling. It's another chance to take on a higher ranked opponent [in Iowa State] and a team that went 196 last week."
Iowa State is the latest in a series of ranked opponents the Huskies will face this season. Five of the Huskies' 2014 opponents are currently in the Top 25, with ranked teams Illinois (No. 15), Central Michigan (No. 19) and Arizona State (No. 22) on NIU's upcoming schedule.
Morreale said the 2014 squad feels they have the talent to compete at a higher level and score better than they have shown so far this season and are hungry to show exactly that.
"Every competition is a chance to see progress," he said. "These kids are hungry to get out and show what they have. We've had a great week of practice focused on the details. We realize [improving our scores] is about us, about going 24-for-24 and putting together four solid events."
Admission to all NIU home meets in 2014 is free and so is parking at the Convocation Center. Doors open at Noon. Scores will be updated following every rotation - click here and the meet can be seen via NIUTube, the Huskies' subscription streaming service on NIUHuskies.com. (Note that NIU routines will be seen in their entirety and others as time allows.)
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