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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

‘We got a little payback in us’: Huskies ready for rematch with Eagles

Al-Ashari to make final Michigan homecoming
Totus Tuus Keely
Freshman gymnast Isabella Ross poses while her teammates cheer for her completed routine. NIU gymnastics will face Eastern Michigan University Sunday. (Totus Tuus Keely | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Before she blossomed into NIU gymnastics’ bar star and beam queen, senior Alyssa Al-Ashari got her start in the Great Lake State of Michigan.

Nearly halfway into her swansong season at NIU, Al-Ashari’s set to compete in her home state one last time as a college gymnast.

On Sunday, the NIU gymnastics team will be in Ypsilanti, Michigan – an hour’s drive away from Al-Ashari’s hometown of Lansing, Michigan – to take part in a dual meet against Eastern Michigan University.

Al-Ashari’s parents, Christie and David Al-Ashari, and one of her sisters, Katie Lack, are expected to be in attendance in the George Gervin GameAbove Center as the Huskies compete in their second go-round with the Eagles this season – a meet that serves both as a test and a shot at revenge for NIU.

The last time the two squads met earlier this season, Eastern Michigan came away with the meet crown at NIU’s home opener on Jan. 28. Meanwhile, the Huskies were left in last place, holding their first loss at the Convocation Center in over a year.

“It’s another MAC meet, so it’s another chance to measure ourself against the conference,” said NIU gymnastics head coach Sam Morreale. “We’ve seen Eastern (Michigan) once, and they beat us at that home meet, so we got a little payback in us.”


The Huskies (4-7-1, 1-3 MAC) posted their second-highest score of the season against Kent State University on Sunday with a 195.325. NIU’s bars team totaled a season-best 49.100.

Through the first half of the season, NIU has leaned on consistent performances from standouts like Al-Ashari, junior Isabella Sissi and sophomore Kiera O’Shea. 

Al-Ashari tied both of her personal bests on bars and beam against Kent State, scoring a 9.925 on each event. O’Shea earned a 9.875 on vault to split the event title in the same meet.


Entering their final road meet against a league rival before the MAC Championships in March, the Huskies remain focused on stringing together four successful events in a single meet.

Their best example of that came on Jan. 19 at the Tennessee Collegiate Classic, where they recorded their best team score in program history with a 196.400. In the three meets since, NIU has compiled team scores of 193.425, 194.575 and 195.325.

“Each week, we’ve kind of been on the upswing,” Morreale said. “We’re just excited about that opportunity to put a full meet together.”

Morreale also noted NIU finding a synchronous rhythm on all four events is vital not only for the MAC Championships, but also the team’s quest to qualify for the postseason.


EMU (6-4, 1-2 MAC) enters Sunday’s meet a spot above NIU in the conference standings after placing first at the Bowling Green Quad Meet. Eastern Michigan will honor its eight seniors as part of senior day festivities, which should make Al-Ashari’s final homecoming that much more memorable.

“I have two old teammates on the Eastern Michigan team (senior Sophia Rios and junior Emma Lewis), and I’ve known the Eastern Michigan head coach (Katie Minasola) for a really long time,” Al-Ashari said. “And it’s their (EMU’s) senior meet, so it’s kind of like a crazy thing.”

Competition is scheduled to begin at noon CT Sunday at the George Gervin GameAbove Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The meet will be broadcast on ESPN+, with live statistics available on StatBroadcast.

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