The Northern Illinois University gymnastics team earned its highest team score of the 2014 season Friday night with marks of 48.275 or higher in all four events in a 195.675-193.375 loss to No. 25 Kent State.
NIU put together its most consistent overall meet that included a season-best 48.425 on floor exercise. Three different Huskies recorded marks of 9.825 or higher on three events and all-arounder Kim Gotlund (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township HS) earned her best score with a 38.925.
Senior Natasha Jufko (Spring Hill, Fla./Pasco-Hernando HS) tied for first on balance beam with a 9.850 for the Huskies’ highest score of the night, while Jaelyn Olsen (Bethany, Okla./Putnam City West HS) took third on vault, tying her season-high with a 9.825. Junior Amanda Stepp (Lapeer, Mich./Lapeer East HS) achieved a career-high score on floor exercise with a 9.825.
Gotlund scored a 9.700 or higher on all four events for the first time in 2014. She posted 9.750 marks on both balance beam and floor exercise, tallied a 9.725 on vault and went 9.700 on uneven parallel bars.
NIU head coach Sam Morreale was pleased with several of the performances and the improvement shown by the Huskies in their fourth outing of the season.
“Kim was solid on all four events which is something she’s been striving for all year so that was encouraging,” Morreale said. “Tash [Jufko] was really good again tonight and Jae hit her vault. It was good to get Amanda back on floor and come up with her best set of the year.
“We had a better meet, but we still have areas to work on. We definitely improved.”
NIU scored above 48.000 on every event and counted only three scores below 9.600 in the meet with every bars score topping the 9.600 mark.
“For the most part, we hit four events, we’ve just got to keep moving up one tenth at a time,” Morreale said. “We had a couple of misses, and a couple of great performances. We got better in a lot of places. There are still landings to work on and corrections that can be made.
“We are still chasing that 48.5 average and are definitely still hungry for more. There’s definitely room to improve and keep that score going upward. We’ll get back at in the gym this week and make corrections going into next week’s meet.
The loss dropped the Huskies’ record to 2-2 overall and 2-1 versus Mid-American Conference opponents while Kent State improved to 6-1, 3-0.
NIU takes a break from MAC competition this weekend when the Huskies play host Sunday, Feb. 16, to Iowa State and Texas Woman’s University at the NIU Convocation Center. The time of that meet has been moved up one hour to 1 p.m. (CST).
For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.