After suffering its first loss of 2013 on the road at the hands of Ball State last weekend, the Northern Illinois gymnastics team takes on Southeast Missouri at 5 p.m. Saturday, back in the “friendly confines” of Victor E. Court inside the NIU Convocation Center.
The Huskie gymnastics meet is the second half of a Convocation Center doubleheader with the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team; every basketball ticket also good for admission to the gymnastics competition.
Saturday is part of NIU Faculty and Staff Day and “Red Out” Weekend at the Convo with all fans invited to wear red, and free red T-shirts and free pizza for Northern Illinois students. Live scoring updates will be available, and the meet will be streamed live on NIUHuskies.com All-Access.
Northern Illinois (2-1, 1-1 MAC) dropped a 192.475-192.075 decision to Ball State last Friday night as the Huskies were unable to hit enough routines on balance beam to earn the win. NIU’s scores on the season have ranged from 192.075 to 192.775 and Huskie head coach Sam Morreale said the team is determined to raise its score, but must not “try too hard” in order to break the 193-point mark.
“The kids are hungry to do well and they want to show what they are capable of,” Morreale said. “They hate underachieving. We had a great week of practice and we really refocused on the basics. We have enough talent and depth if we put together a good meet. Our mistakes are because we’re trying too hard.”
Northern Illinois junior Megan Melendez posted 9.800 scores on uneven parallel bars and on balance beam to win both events a week ago. She moves into the Huskies’ line-up on vault this week, while a familiar face returns to the floor for the first time this season.
“We’re moving Megan into the vault line-up.,” Morreale said. “She has the potential to make us better on that event. The only other change right now is on floor where Peyton Taylor is coming back off preseason surgery and will compete in exhibition. Peyton is a good tumbler who was in the line-up on floor last year.”
In addition to Melendez, sophomore Amanda Stepp has been one of the most consistent Huskies. Stepp won floor exercise at Ball State and six of her nine routines have placed in the top five so far this year. Freshman Jaelyn Olsen has been NIU’s top vaulter with a season-best 9.800.
Morreale said he believes the team will show improvement, especially at home in Victor E. Court.
“We’re continually working and we’re going to get better as we go,” he said. “I expect everybody to get better, even the people who aren’t in the line-up as they keep pushing. We’re 2-0 at home so far and we’re taking pride in that. We like competing at home and we’re excited to be back-to-back with basketball. I hope some of the basketball fans will stop by and watch gymnastics after the game.”
Southeast Missouri is 2-0 on the season with a team-high score of 193.700 on the young season. The Redhawks earned their season-best score last week versus Centenary with SEMO gymnasts winning four of the five events.
The SEMO meet is the third of five home events for Huskie gymnastics in 2013. After Saturday’s meet, NIU travels to Central Michigan for a Friday, Feb. 8, match-up against one of the Mid-American Conference favorites.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.