Northern Illinois gymnastics came up with its second-highest score of the 2012 season, but it was not enough to overcome a strong performance by Mid-American Conference powerhouse Kent State Sunday as the Huskies fell 195.525-193.625 in a dual meet at the MAC Center in Kent, Ohio.
The loss drops NIU’s record to 3-4 overall, 2-2 versus league opponents. With one of the top team scores by any MAC team this year, Kent State improved to 3-2 overall and in league competition.
“I think the kids did a good job of staying level-headed and taking one routine at a time,” said NIU head coach Sam Morreale.
“It was kind of an off day, but to say we had an off day and went 193-five is pretty good. We had a couple of issues on beam but came back and finished well. These guys are a top team and it’s a hostile environment, but it is something we can definitely learn from and use going into next week versus Central Michigan.”
Senior Tanya Rachan led Northern Illinois in all three of her events. She tied for third place on vault with a 9.775, tied for fourth on floor exercise with a 9.825 and took fifth on balance beam with a 9.675. Rachan scored above 9.800 on floor for the sixth time in seven outings this year.
“Tanya had a great day,” Morreale said. “She was on from the beginning with the vault and it was probably one of her best vaults. She was very even, very competitive all day. She found a zone and stayed there … it was definitely one of her best floor sets of the year and probably deserved even better than what she scored.”
Huskie seniors Ashley Guerra and Shonda Clore also put together top-scoring routines. Guerra was NIU’s top performer on uneven parallel bars as she tied for third with a 9.800. Clore’s scores on vault, bars and beam all ranked second on the team; her 9.750 on vault tied her career best on the event and contributed to NIU equaling its best team vault score of the season with a 48.550.
Guerra’s mark on bars was more impressive considering she missed significant time during the week while resting an injury.
“She is a rock star,” Morreale said. “She has a great commitment to the team and she is that good, even with less work this week. She felt good and arguably did one of her best bar routines of the year. It was a testament to her preparedness.”
Freshmen Kelly Nortz and Amanda Stepp also achieved their career best marks on vault with a 9.675 and 9.650, respectively while Natalie Sutter’s 9.700 was her best of the season. Nortz also matched her career and season best score on floor exercise with a 9.750. Fellow freshman Peyton Taylor earned her career and season-best mark on floor exercise as she went 9.750.
Morreale was pleased with what he saw out of his freshmen in a tough road environment.
“It’s exciting and encouraging for the future,” Morreale said. “They have come right in and performed like veterans, like they’ve been doing it for a long time. They are carrying a lot of responsibility and getting [the job] done.”
Northern Illinois only “miss” on the day came on balance beam where the Huskies had a pair of falls.
NIU returns to Victor E. Court Sunday, Feb. 26, for its final regular season home meet of 2012. The Huskies will take on Central Michigan, another of the MAC favorites, in its Senior Day meet.
The Huskies will host the Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championships Saturday, March 24, at the NIU Convocation Center. The seven-team championship meet begins at 2 p.m.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.