March 17, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois gymnastics team will look to build momentum for the upcoming Mid-American Conference Championships and earn another stellar score Saturday when the Huskies travel to Champaign, Ill. for the annual State of Illinois Meet. NIU, Illinois State, UIC and Illinois will compete for the mythical state title in the gathering of the state's women's gymnastics teams beginning at 4 p.m. at Huff Hall on the UI campus.
Fans can get live scoring updates of the meet on line (click here) or watch the meet streamed live online via the Illinois All-Access channel at FightingIllini.com link.
The State of Illinois Classic, which rotates among the four schools, is the penultimate competition before the MAC Championships scheduled for the NIU Convocation Center March 24, and Northern Illinois Head Coach Sam Morreale and his team are looking to post some good scores entering the league meet.
"We definitely want to have a good day of hits so we can build confidence and momentum going into the MAC Championships," Morreale said. "After watching [our last] meet at EMU on film, we did a lot of good things in the meet. The bad start tarnished the day and so this gives us a chance to correct some errors from the Eastern meet before championships and get going back in the right direction."
The multi-team event and facing strong in-state and intra-regional competition also makes the State Meet a good precursor to the league championships.
"It's another quad meet, so we're back in that situation, and it's always a highly competitive atmosphere so that preps us for MACs," Morreale said. "We know these teams and many of these gymnasts very well, and they know us very well. These teams and a lot of these individuals are battling for regional spots. All week we've been stressing our goals and we've had a good, detail-oriented week and it hasn't been an easy week by any means. We're balancing quality [practice] versus quantity. This is an important time of year and everyone realizes it."
NIU sophomore Megan Melendez is coming off back-to-back MAC Specialist of the Week honors after winning balance beam in each of her last two outings and placing on uneven parallel bars in both events. Melendez is one of several Huskies attempting to strengthen their regional rankings in individual events in hopes of securing a spot in the NCAA Regionals. Senior Tanya Rachan is among the region's top performers in floor exercise while Ashley Guerra is looking for her second ever appearance on uneven parallel bars.
The Huskies will be without freshmen Kelly Nortz for the second straight week after she was injured at Illinois State. In her place, fellow freshmen Amanda Stepp and Alyssa Malone have stepped in on floor exercise and vault, respectively.
"Amanda and Alyssa will have two meets in the line-up so they know what to expect and that helps," Morreale said. "We've said all year that we feel good about the line-up. We know these guys are able to step in and do as good of a job so that's not a question."
Following the State of Illinois Classic, NIU will host the 2012 MAC Gymnastics Championships at the NIU Convocation Center Saturday, March 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets will be sold for $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. For more information, go to the gymnastics page of MAC-sports.com.
-- NIU --
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