March 9, 2013
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois will make the first of two trips to Kalamazoo, Mich. when the Huskies close out their 2013 Mid-American Conference regular season Sunday at Western Michigan. NIU will face the Broncos at 1 p.m. (CT) at University Arena in WMU's Autism Awareness Meet.
The Huskies enter the WMU meet 4-4 overall, and are 2-3 versus the MAC. Western Michigan is 5-5 overall, 2-2 in the MAC. NIU has posted its three highest scores of the season in its last three meets, including a season-best 194.775 last week in its home finale versus Eastern Michigan.
NIU Head Coach Sam Morreale said the Huskies would like to even its league mark before seeing all six of their league opponents on March 23 in Kalamazoo at the MAC Championships.
"This meet is a chance to get even in the MAC and it's a measuring stick meet for us," Morreale said. "Western Michigan was picked No. 2 in the conference in the preseason so we have respect for them, but for us, it's about taking care of what we're trying to do."
After scoring 194.775 in its last outing, the Huskies have their sights set on a 195 team score, a mark achieved only four times in NIU women's gymnastics history.
"As a team, we upped our goals to get to 195, and are looking to average 9.75 on every routine across the board," Morreale said. "We feel like if we get to that 195, the wins and losses take care of themselves."
With the MAC Championship meet coming up in less than two weeks, Morreale and the Huskies also relish the chance to compete at University Arena. The MAC held a blind draw Friday to determine the rotation order for the championship and Morreale was pleased with the draw NIU received. The Huskies will sit out the first rotation, and then start on uneven parallel bars in the second rotation. NIU will also start on bars in this weekend's meet.
"It's good to be competing at WMU now because in two weeks we get to come back for the conference meet in the same gym," Morreale said. "In addition, we'll start on the same event [bars] for MACs as we are on Sunday.
I love the [MAC] rotation for us. Starting on bars is familiar, and then we'll go to beam and floor, which are both events where we can score. Vault has been a good event for us so we should have confidence finishing on that event."
While getting used to the surroundings and equipment at WMU, Northern Illinois will also be moving closer to finalizing its line-up heading into the final two meets of the season while continuing to tweak and improve routines. Morreale, who has been impressed with the team's depth all season, said that depth allows him to be able to make changes to the line-up even at this point in the season.
"We're still evaluating our best line-up, we're adjusting routines and tweaking some of our skills," Morreale said. "That's the beauty of this team, we are still getting better. I love our depth... if someone is not feeling it, we have other people who can get the job done. We're upping our scores and the people in exhibition roles are pushing."
The Huskies' final meet before MAC Championships on March 23 is the State of Illinois Classic on March 16. UIC will host the annual quadrangular meet which brings together the state's four gymnastics teams.
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