NIU gymnastics set for Ball State meet

By Matt Hopkinson

The gymnastics team has notched two victories in its last two meets, both of the comeback variety.

While the victories are always a nice thing and show the resiliency of the team, head coach Sam Morreale and junior gymnast Natasha Jufko know that more consistency is needed to get meets started on the right foot.

“I think it[slow starts] definitely catches us off-guard but it makes us work 20 times harder,” Jufko said. “We don’t want to be the comeback team, we’ve said that a million times. We’re ready to go out there and hit it.”

The Huskies will look to continue their winning ways Friday night when they travel to Ball State for their first road meet of the year and their second MAC tilt.

“I let them know the schedule of what we’re doing, when we’re doing, how we’re doing, and then honestly it’s a great time for bonding,” Morreale said. “It’s kind of us against everybody. When you go into a venue like that, Ball State tends to be a little louder and a little rowdier.

“It’s actually a good thing; it’s almost like a battle. It lets us pull into ourselves more, which again keeps us from worrying about what’s going on around us.”

While the beam and floor routines have been able to pull out the victories late in meets, Morreale is looking for the bar squad to get off to better starts, literally, in improving the start values of their routines.

“Another one of our goals is the start value,” Morreale said. “Each routine starts from a 10.0. We put together an X amount of elements and skills to add up that. That’s our main thing for bars this week: Get our start values and we’ll worry about the stick [landing] at the end.”

The Huskies will use this road trip as a useful tool in several ways. It provides a nice atmosphere for a meet and it also allows some of the younger members and new faces to gain road experience. The younger gymnasts will be able to adjust to different rotation formats with away crowds.

Those differing formats will include the Huskies starting on bars and ending on beam, which Morreale believes is not too different or difficult, but has given his team the chance to get some repetitions in that format during practice time.

“We’ve been able to do things in practice to replicate that so we’re not going in cold turkey,” Morreale said. “It’s just a little different; beams [are] now the last event. If that’s all you’re doing you’re waiting ’til the very end of the meet.”

Jufko believes that there are increased bonding opportunities since the whole team is going and that this type of event gets the team excited and ready to compete come start time.

“I think we’re all excited because he’s [Morreale] traveling everyone this meet, which is good…,” Jufko said “We’re just looking forward to getting in a different environment cause the more we do that it just gives us more experience. I think we’re definitely prepared and ready for what is ahead.”