Gymnastics unable to beat No. 10 Nebraska

By Steve Shonder

Gymnastics managed to start the season off well despite its loss in its first meet of the year.

The Huskies (0-1) lost to No. 10 Nebraska (1-0), 196.625-192.525, Saturday at Nebraska’s Devaney Sports Center. Nebraska won all four events to sweep NIU. The Huskies were unable to secure a 9.7 average, but head coach Sam Morreale was pleased with the results he saw in front of the large Nebraska crowd.

“I was excited with the team’s performance,” Morreale said. “I thought they handled the pressure of the meet and the venue. We’re going in the right direction. I feel we can take some confidence away [from this meet].”

NIU started off the meet on the uneven bars, where senior Kim Gotlund put up a career-high 9.8. Gotlund’s score placed her in fourth for the event behind the Cornhuskers’ Jessie DeZiel, Desire’ Stephens, Emily Wong and Jordyn Beck.

NIU sophomore Kylie Clark also impressed on the bars with a 9.725. Despite the good performances from Gotlund and Clark , the Huskers outscored them 49.225- 48.475.

Morreale thought the team’s bars performance has the Huskies headed in the right direction.

“The 48.475 on bars, We are extremely happy with that,” Morreale said. “If that’s where we start, it bodes well for where we can get on bars.”

The Huskies performed well on vault, putting up a team score of 48.6, their highest event score of the night. Sophomore Jaelyn Olsen led the team with a score of 9.825, which was the highest score put up by any NIU gymnast during the meet. Senior Megan Melendez and freshman Megan Greenfield put up scores of 9.775 and 9.725, respectively.

Nebraska’s DeZiel scored an impressive 9.95 to lead all gymnasts in the event. Nebraska’s total vault score of 49.25 was also its highest event score.

The balance beam proved to be trouble with NIU posting a meet-low score of 47.05. Despite the poor showing, senior Natasha Jufko earned a 9.7 to lead the Huskies. Beam was also Nebraska’s lowest-scoring event, with the Cornhuskers posting a 49.025.

Gotlund and Shelby Davis stood out for the Huskies during floor exercises with Gotlund receiving a 9.75 and Davis earning a 9.725. Gotlund ended her night with a 38.575, which Morreale said he expects to be her lowest score of the year. Nebraska outscored NIU 49.125- 48.4, which completed the Huskers’ sweep.

The Huskies are looking at this loss as another step on the road to improving. Morreale was pleased with the team’s difficult routines against one of the nation’s top programs.

“Our difficulty level is comparable to anyone,” Morreale said. “At this time, we’re worried less about toe position and the small stuff. It’s great that we can [just focus] on that in practice. Overall, we’re going to focus on the positives. The freshmen handled the pressure at this level. It was a trial by fire and they stepped up.”