Throughout the fall semester, the Northern Illinois women’s gymnastics team has met its benchmarks and exceeded expectations while preparing for the 2013 season.
On Sunday, NIU will get its first chance to put all the hours of hard work and training on display when the Huskies play host to Illinois State in their 2013 season opener at Victor E. Court in the NIU Convocation Center.
The meet begins at 1 p.m. as part of the first half of a Huskie doubleheader. At 3 p.m., the NIU women’s basketball team takes on Ball State in the main bowl of the Convocation Center, and one ticket will be good for entry to both events. The meet, and every NIU gymnastics home meet this year, can be seen live on Huskie All-Access.
NIU second-year head coach Sam Morreale said the 2013 Huskies are a sophomore and junior dominated squad with only two seniors on the roster, but every class will be represented in the line-up.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have trained at a very high level,” Morreale said. “You have to start with our seniors, Marisa Liptak and Natalie Sutter, they have provided very good leadership. Among the juniors, Kim Gotlund and Megan Melendez have looked very good. In the sophomore class, Kelly Nortz and Amanda Stepp are leading the way. The freshmen are knocking on the door at different spots in the line-up, with Jaelyn Olsen on vault, and Lauren Africano and Natalie Amadio on bars.”
Sutter and Gotlund will compete all-around in 2013.
Gotlund owns a career best score of 39.000 and was selected to compete in the NCAA Regionals as a sophomore, while Sutter will compete all-around for the first time. She has recorded a score of 9.725 of higher on each event, topped by a 9.850 on floor exercise. Gotlund has a career-best of 9.850 on floor and leads NIU on vault with a top score of 9.800.
While Morreale has proven scorers at the top of the line-up, he said the 2013 team features depth and more even scoring across the board. This year, NIU will consistently field gymnasts at every spot in the line-up who can score 9.650 or higher on every routine.
“There is a lot of competition for line-up spots in all four events which makes us better as a team,” Morreale said.
“We are a deeper team, and the depth is performing at a higher level. Our lowest scores should be higher than they’ve ever been. I’m encouraged by the way they’ve worked in the preseason and along with that, we raised our team GPA to 3.5. We had one of our best semesters academically.”
The 2013 team has adopted a theme of “One Team, One Goal” and has its sights set on an NCAA Regional berth, a feat achieved only once in Northern Illinois history. In each meet, though, NIU will focus on each individual routine.
“Our normal goals are to go one-for-one on each routine,” Morreale said. “We also pick a number of stuck landings as a team for each meet. If we do those things, we’ll score over a 9.65 on each routine and that will get us where we need to be.”
Northern Illinois took fourth in the Mid-American Conference and posted an 8-13 record a year ago. Morreale said opening the season at home will help some of the young gymnasts making their debuts this season.
“We’re glad to be starting at home,” he said. “We like our venue, it’s loud and there’s good energy. It’s nice to start with a home meet. I’m really excited about this group and seeing what they can do. They’ve trained hard to get to this point, and they’re ready for the next step.”
Tickets for the gymnastics-women’s basketball doubleheader are $6 for adults and $4 for youth with NIU students admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at the NIU Convocation Center Ticket Office beginning at noon.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.