Feb. 28, 2013
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois seniors Marisa Liptak (Kendall Park, N.J./South Brunswick HS) and Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) will compete in the final home meet of their careers Friday night when the Huskies play host to Eastern Michigan in the final home gymnastics competition of 2013.
Friday's meet begins at 5 p.m. in Victor E. Court in the NIU Convocation Center. The competition will be streamed live on Huskies All-Access with live scoring updates available on NIUHuskies.com (click here) and on Twitter @NIUscores. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors and free for NIU students.
The last three meets have been a "good news, bad news" result for Northern Illinois. The good news - NIU has posted its three highest team scores of the season versus Central Michigan (194.025), Iowa State (194.375) and Kent State (194.350). The bad news, Northern Illinois lost all three outings to fall to 3-4 on the season. The Huskies are 1-3 in the MAC. Central Michigan and Kent State were each ranked No. 21 at the time of the meets, while Iowa State is a perennial NCAA Regional team out of the Big 12 Conference.
NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale said the team remains focused on their performances and not on what the opponent is doing.
"We are approaching this meet as we have every other, trying to reach our goals and do what we set out to do," Morreale said. "Eastern Michigan is a well-trained team and we can't walk in and assume it's going to go our way. We need to stay focused on what we're doing and not worry about what the other team is doing. We feel great about the momentum we have going off of the 194 scores, but we did count some misses [last week] and we want to go back to not counting misses."
The Huskies' miscues came on uneven parallel bars. Morreale believes with five "clean" routines on bars to go with similar results as last week on vault, balance beam and floor exercise, a 195 team score is within reach. NIU has reached the 195 mark only four times in school history, including once last season.
"We are chasing that 195," Morreale said. "We have to be at the level we were on the other three events [last week], and keep them sharp and polished, and then we need to hit bars. This team still has a lot of goals propelling them forward. The floor squad wants to break the floor record (49.275) and they feel like they have a chance to do it. The beam squad wants to break the school record (49.250) and realistically both of those are within reach. We have a lot of kids knocking on the regional door (as individuals) so they are trying to stack good performances on top of good performances, and we have four meets to make a run at regionals as a team."
Not to be lost is the significance of Senior Night as Sutter and Liptak will be honored prior to the meet along with their parents. Liptak has been in the Huskie line-up on floor exercise each of the last three years and has been a part of the NIU "beam team" for two seasons. She earned her career high floor score of 9.875 last week versus Kent State and has won the event twice this year for her first event titles of her Huskie career.
Sutter has spent four years in the NIU starting line-up on both vault and floor exercise. She became a three-event gymnast for NIU as a junior by claiming a spot on bars, and became a regular on balance beam as a senior. Sutter has performed 111 routines in 41 meets for NIU over the past four seasons and has six titles, including two as an all-arounder this season.
"Marisa and Natalie are two totally different athletes who are both very good gymnasts," Morreale said. "This is the first senior class in a long time that from day one to today, they have not started the `countdown to retirement' clock. They have been completely focused, they are relishing and enjoying each week and each competition and from a leadership standpoint, that has been great. Over the years, they have become leaders by example. They both take pride in the legacy of the program they are leaving behind. We need to send our seniors out on a high note in their last home meet."
Eastern Michigan enters Friday's meet 3-6 on the season and are 0-3 in MAC competition. Last week at the Bowling Green Invitational in a meet versus two MAC schools that did not count toward league standings, the Eagles took second place, earning a win over Ball State in the process.
Following Friday's meet, Northern Illinois will have two regular season competitions remaining - at Western Michigan on March 10 and at UIC on March 16, before traveling to Kalamazoo for the 2013 MAC Championships on March 23.
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