Gymnastics opens homestand Sunday

Natalie Sutter
Natalie Sutter

The Northern Illinois gymnastics team opens a three-week homestand with its first Mid-American Conference meet of the 2012 season when the Huskies play host to Western Michigan at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at the NIU Convocation Center.

The meet, which will be held in Victor E. Court, will be streamed live on NIUHuskies.com through Huskie All-Access.

Tickets for the competition are $5 for adults and $3 for youth, and can be used for admission to the Northern Illinois women’s basketball game, which begins at 3 p.m. in the main arena of the Convocation Center.

NIU is 1-1 after a narrow 190.350-190.100 victory over Southeast Missouri State on the road last Friday gave new Huskies’ head coach Sam Morreale his first career victory. Morreale said he was happy to see his team earn a tough road win.

“In the first meet against UIC, we had a bunch of bright spots but too many misses,” Morreale said.

“We won three of four events, which was exciting to see. We built on that last week and after a rough start on bars, came back to get the win. Our practices have gone well this week. We are focused on the details, which is a great place to be at this point in the season. A year ago, it took us a lot longer to get to this point. We are in a position where we are very comfortable in what we do, and we can pay more attention to the things that give you that small margin between victory and defeat.”

Western Michigan is 2-0 on the young season after upsetting MAC preseason favorite Kent State in Kalamazoo last weekend. The WMU meet is the first of six league competitions for Northern Illinois this year.

“The first MAC meet is a great measuring stick for us and will tell us a lot about where we stand,” Morreale said. “WMU is an up-and-coming team that is a lot like us, so it will be a good gauge for us. It puts added emphasis on this meet, but we are looking forward to it.”

Ashley Guerra
Ashley Guerra

Morreale said the Huskie line-up will look similar to that of the last two weeks.

He mentioned veterans Tanya Rachan (Lowell, Ind./Hanover Central HS), Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) and Ashley Guerra (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg HS) as gymnasts who have looked good in practices this week, along with freshman Amanda Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS) and sophomore Megan Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS).

“Natalie Sutter’s routines have looked crisp this week and Tanya Rachan has started out the season really strong and she’s continued to look good,” Morreale said.

“Ashley Guerra has started to get her legs under her. Amanda Stepp has looked good and Megan Melendez is really coming on strong. Megan is already in the line-up for us on beam, but she is making a push on bars. To see her come back from the knee injury of a year ago to where she is now is amazing. She is not only very talented, but she really enjoys the competitive aspect of gymnastics. She likes to get in front of people.”

Rachan has recorded back-to-back scores of 9.800 or higher on floor for NIU to lead the Huskies, while Guerra, a junior, is a former NCAA Regional qualifier on uneven parallel bars. Sophomore Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS), Northern Illinois’ lone all-arounder this season, has posted the squad’s best scores on both vault and balance beam with 9.675s on both events.

Gotlund and her teammates will have three opportunities to get in front of people over the next several weeks.

Following Sunday’s home meet versus WMU, NIU will take on New Hampshire in a non-conference match-up on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. Northern Illinois returns to MAC competition the following Saturday when Ball State visits NIU for a 5 p.m. meet.

All meets will be held at Victor E. Court in the NIU Convocation Center.

For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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