Gymnasts extinguish Flames in season opener

Amanda Stepp
Amanda Stepp

The Northern Illinois University women’s gymnastics team rallied for a 192.250-189.575 victory over UIC at the UIC Pavilion in the season opener Friday night.

Trailing, 96.40-95.225, following the second event, the Huskies (1-0) rallied in the floor exercise with a 48.175, while the Flames (0-1) posted a 46.325 on the beam.

The teams’ performances in the third rotation allowed the Huskies to take a 143.500-142.725 lead as they headed into the final rotation. NIU scored a 48.750 on the beam, while UIC scored a 46.850 on the floor to seal the victory.

“We definitely have stuff to work on, but we’re going to enjoy the win,” said NIU head coach Sam Morreale. “UIC is a talented, deep team and I expect a dog fight every time we come here. The fact we were able to pull out the win feels good.”

Amanda Stepp led the way for the Huskies, finishing in first place in all three events she competed in. The senior from Lapeer, Michigan scored a 9.725 in the vault, a 9.850 in the balance beam and a 9.700 in the floor exercise. Sophomore Megan Greenfield was right behind her, finishing first in the vault (9.725) and second in the balance beam (9.825).

After getting off to a slow start with a 47.125 in the uneven bars, their first event of the evening, NIU rallied with a 48.100 in the vault, with Stepp and Greenfield leading the way. Both posted a 9.725 in the event.

“I think the vault got us going and helped turn us around, going into the event not letting our start affect the way we performed,” Morreale said. “It wasn’t our best vault, but kids stepped up and did our 10.0 or more difficult vaults. I think that turned the tide to set us up for floor.”

Megan Greenfield
Megan Greenfield

Heading into the season, Morreale felt the floor exercise would be the Huskies’ best event and the team didn’t disappoint.

“The way we compete in floor, it’s almost a relaxing event for us,” Morreale said. “It put us in a really good spot to go to beam and hit it.”

NIU turned in a strong performance on the beam and once again, Stepp and Greenfield led the way. Greenfield scored a 9.825, while Stepp finished the meet for NIU on a high note, scoring a 9.850. Shelby Davis began the event with a 9.725 and Taylor Crumley scored a 9.600. Freshman Katherine Prentice hit a 9.750 in her first collegiate meet.

“Beam was outstanding,” he said. “I preach to these kids, training is all about numbers and getting experience. They bought into that and that’s what they did.”

Seniors Lauren Africano and Meg Piepenbrink provided the bright spots for the Huskies on bars. Africano tied for first with a 9.775, while Piepenbrink turned in a 9.725.

NIU returns to action Friday, Jan. 16, when NIU returns home to face Kent State in the Mid-American Conference opener. Competition begins at 7 p.m.

For more information on NIU gymnastics and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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