Every point and tenth of a point counted for the Northern Illinois gymnastics team Saturday as the Huskies edged Southeast Missouri, 192.875-192.775, to earn their third victory of the season.
NIU, which has made a habit of winning close meets by coming from behind at home so far in 2013, needed its best floor score of the season to overtake SEMO and improve its overall record to 3-1.
The Huskies are 3-0 at home with the three victories recorded by just .475 points.
Saturday’s win was by the smallest margin of the season, and NIU head coach Sam Morreale would like to see the Huskies earn a little more separation.
“The fact we’re able to pull these close meets out shows that we’re doing a lot of things well, but we’re just not quite putting it all together,” Morreale said. “It’s nothing to panic about, nothing to get worked up about, but we need to get over the hump. Some of our issues are coming in the same places, so we’re going to take a look at that and reevaluate some of that.”
Northern Illinois trailed Southeast Missouri by .850 going into the final rotation Saturday.
On floor exercise, a strength of the Huskie team all year, the floor squad put together its best collective total of the season with a 48.850. Meanwhile, SEMO scored a 47.900 on balance beam, allowing NIU to claim the win.
Senior Natalie Sutter (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry HS) closed out the meet for NIU with a 9.825 on floor to win the event and post the highest score of the meet on any event. Sutter also took the all-around title with a career-high 38.850, placing third on uneven parallel bars and on balance beam with scores of 9.700 on those events.
“Natalie had a huge all-around,” Morreale said. “She was ‘on’ all day, although she didn’t have the best warm up. Kim Gotlund put together four solid routines and putting Megan Melendez in the vault line-up is going to help that event in the long run. Amanda Stepp had another good day, she’s really come into her own this season.”
Melendez (Stafford, Va./North Stafford HS) tied for first on uneven parallel bars and on balance beam, earning a 9.750 on bars and a 9.775 on beam. She won the titles on both events for the second straight meet and added a 9.650 in her first career vault.
Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) tied her season-best all-around performance with a 38.750, including a 9.775 on floor exercise to tie for third place. Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS) recorded a season-high 9.800 on floor exercise.
The Huskies’ once again counted a miss on both bars and balance beam, but overcame the miscues to earn the win. Morreale said while analyzing the reasons for the misses, he admires the focus his team displays in overcoming adversity and finishing the meet.
“We have a lot of the right pieces, a lot of kids doing the right things, we’ve got to get out of our own way,” Morreale said.
“Sometimes you can have too much adrenaline and we want to do so well that can have a negative effect on some events. We train really well so it’s tapping into the same way we practice and bringing that to the meets. I feel good about where we’re going and the way we are able to stay focused through the end of the meet.”
NIU’s 192.875 score was its highest team total of the season. The Huskies return to Mid-American Conference competition Friday as they take on Central Michigan in Mt. Pleasant.
Northern Illinois’ next home meet is at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, versus Kent State.
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.