March 8, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois women's gymnastics team will close out its 2009 dual meet season Monday as the Huskies travel to Western Michigan for a rare weekday afternoon match-up. The meet versus the Broncos, which starts at Noon (Central) is also the final regular season Mid-American Conference competition of the year for NIU.
Northern Illinois goes to Kalamazoo with a 4-4 overall record and a 3-2 mark versus league schools while Western Michigan is 2-16, 0-4. For head coach Mark Sontag and his team, bettering their team regional qualifying score (RQS) is the primary goal in the final meets leading up to the MAC Championships March 21. The RQS determines which teams are selected for NCAA competition at the conclusion of the season.
"Right now we are counting two 192s and a 193.0 and our goal is to replace one of those 192s at this meet and one at the state championships on Saturday," Sontag said.
In order to achieve those higher scores, Sontag knows NIU must not only hit all 24 of its routines, but must also make those routines "clean" to avoid small deductions from the judges.
"We've got to be on top of our game to make improvements in our scoring," Sontag explained. "We've been working a lot this week on refining the little stuff, going after every tenth [of a point] because they all count. We obviously need to hit, but we also need to run clean routines throughout the line-up to get those extra tenths that make the difference in the end result."
Northern Illinois features a mix of veterans and freshmen in its 2009 line-up and has been led by sophomore all-arounder Holly Reichard (Palatine, Ill./Palatine Fremd), who owns the second-highest all-around score in the MAC this year with a 39.350 and has won the all-around competition in five of the Huskies' competitions this year. Senior Jennifer Naughton (Smithville, Mo./Smithville HS) and junior Natalie Blum (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township HS) are among the Huskie veterans who have put together outstanding seasons so far.
In addition to the team RQS, Reichard, Naughton and Blum are vying for spots in the individual events at the NCAA Regionals.
"Everybody is in the same boat as far as trying to get some higher scores in before the final RQS later this month," Sontag said. "We have quite a few [gymnasts] that are on the bubble, in good position and if they hit well in the next three meets could definitely improve their standing. So these upcoming meets are important on an individual, as well as team, basis."
Northern Illinois' line-up at Western Michigan will look similar to its last few meets as Sontag anticipates the return of injured gymnasts Shonda Clore (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview HS) and Tiffany Anderson (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook HS). Clore was in the line-up on three events for the Huskies before going down with an ankle injury, while Anderson competed on bars. She is still overcoming a knee injury.
Following Monday's action, Northern Illinois will be in action Saturday, March 14 in Chicago at the Illinois State Classic versus in-state foes Illinois, Illinois-Chicago and Illinois State.
-- NIU --