NIU gymnastics: Huskies content at 2-0, seek win vs. Lindenwood

By Steve Shonder

With its two-meet homestand coming to a close, gymnastics will need another strong effort to topple its third-straight opponent.

The Huskies (2-0, 1-0 MAC) will face off against the Lindenwood Lady Lions (0-2) 7 p.m. Friday at the Convocation Center for the Flip-Pin. Wrestling will compete at the same time on a separate area in the arena.

NIU is coming off a 193.375-193.025 win over the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Friday home win was the first time the Huskies have beaten their MAC rivals since Feb. 27, 1999, and they’ll look to keep the hot streak going. The Huskies are looking to start their season 3-0 for the first time since 2008-09, when they opened 4-0.

The Lady Lions have stepped up their performances in each meet and are on the verge of a breakout meet, which has the Huskies on notice. Friday, Lindenwood fell to the Western Michigan Broncos, 192.45-192.35, after scoring just 190.55 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Jan. 9.

“You always worry about having a down performance after a good performance,” said head coach Sam Morreale. “We have talked about that this week as far as: Last week was a great win, and it was something that our program can build from, but it’s one win, so let’s put that behind us, ’cause Lindenwood can come in and do to us what we did to Kent.”

Injury update

The Huskies have been without several gymnasts since the beginning of the season, but some are on the verge of returning to action. Morreale said sophomore Jamyra Carter and freshman Ashley Potts are ready, while junior Jaelyn Olsen is questionable but should be back soon.

NIU gymnast to watch

Freshman Katherine Prentice has given NIU a boost on balance beam. In her first two collegiate meets, she’s scored a 9.75 each time.

“I think I’ve done well handling the pressure,” Prentice said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I think I still have room for improvement, but as a start it’s been pretty good.”

Lindenwood gymnast to watch

Freshman Kierstin Sokolowski is riding high after earning a 38.925 all-around score vs. Western Michigan.

Sokolowski scored more than 9.7 on three of her four events, including a 9.775 on floor.

Floor dominance

NIU has been successful on floor in its first two meets, winning the event each time. The Huskies scored 48.275 against the Illinois-Chicago Flames and 48.925 against Kent State.

The bookenders for floor have given the Huskies the consistency they need to get the event off the right foot and end it on the right note. Senior Shelby Davis has been consistent in the lead-off role, scoring a 9.625 and 9.75 in her last two outings, while senior Amanda Stepp has scored a 9.7 and 9.85 in her last two outings to close out floor for NIU.

Beyond Stepp and Davis, the Huskies have depth they can lean on: Sophomore Brittany Wenzel and seniors Kelly Nortz and Peyton Taylor had strong floor performances last week.

“Floor is a strong event for us as a team, not just those kids competing,” Morreale said. “I don’t feel like we should take a step back. If it is a different lineup, we’d have a different lead-off athlete, so you’re hoping those intangibles don’t negatively affect us.”