After opening the 2013 season with its highest first meet score since 2009, the Northern Illinois gymnastics team looks to build on that performance Saturday in its 2013 Mid-American Conference season opener versus Bowling Green at the NIU Convocation Center.
The meet begins at 5 p.m. as the first half of a gymnastics/men’s basketball doubleheader with one ticket good for admission to both events.
In last week’s season-opener, Northern Illinois scored a 192.175 to earn a narrow victory by .125 over Illinois State to go to 1-0 on the year. Junior Kim Gotlund, a 2012 NCAA Regional participant in the all-around, led the Huskies on three of four events to post a 38.750 all-around score, while Natasha Jufko scored a 9.825 on balance beam to earn MAC Specialist of the Week honors.
NIU second-year head coach Sam Morreale said after reviewing the first meet, the Huskies have spent the week looking at the “little things” that will raise scores.
“We’ve had a good solid week of practice,” Morreale said. “We started well in the first meet, but there are definitely little pieces of our routines we’ve been able to focus on during practice. We had no sticks last week, and that’s 1.5 points that we left on the mats in the three landing events. If we don’t change anything else we did and just stick landings, our scores will go up. So we’re focusing on our weekly goals.”
NIU also looks for seniors Natalie Sutter and Marisa Liptak to rebound from uneven performances versus Illinois State, while freshmen like Jaelyn Olsen and Lauren Africano will be more comfortable in their second career meet. Both Sutter and Liptak stumbled on balance beam before coming back to score 9.675 and 9.625, respectively, on floor exercise. Olsen contributed a 9.675 on vault and Africano led off bars with a 9.625 in their Huskie debuts.
“I definitely expect the seniors to bounce back,” Morreale said. “It was the first meet of their last competitive season and from a training standpoint, it was unexpected. I think the freshmen will be more comfortable and hungrier in their second meet.”
Morreale said the addition of the freshmen, and the return of gymnasts like Jufko from 2012 injuries, has made competition for line-up spots more intense.
“It’s getting competitive for line-up spots which is a good place to be, but it also means some people who are good enough won’t make the line-up,” Morreale said. “The fact it is our first MAC meet will add an additional emphasis. The key is we’re going to continue to focus on our weekly goals. We’re trying to take ’em each week and go out and do our best.”
Tickets for the gymnastics/basketball doubleheader can be purchased at the NIU Convocation Center prior to the meet for $10 (reserved) and $8 (general admission). Saturday is also Kids Day at the Convo and for every adult ticket purchased, fans will receive one free youth ticket. The NIU-Bowling Green meet will be streamed live on Huskie All-Access.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.