CHESTERTON | Conspicuous by her absence from last year's Duneland Athletic Conference Championship, Morgan Algozine was conspicuous by her presence Saturday.
The Valparaiso junior won three events and the all-around with a personal-best 38.75, helping the Vikings regain their perch atop the DAC.
"I was very motivated for (myself) and the team," Algozine said. "We've been working hard all season and things are coming together nicely. It's a good feeling. We'll see where it takes us."
Valpo posted a 112.55, just off its season best, to top Portage (111.325), which was done in by several falls on balance beam. Defending champion Chesterton was third at 108.65.
"Morgan's been solid as a rock," Vikings coach Lorie Cook said. "There's pressure being in the anchor spot and she's handled it extremely well all year. We're pleased with her performance and her coolness in that situation. I'm sure (regaining the title) was in the back of the girls' minds, but that wasn't exactly our focus. We wanted to compete well, start off the postseason on a good note, and we did."
Algozine took beam (9.5), Valpo's opening event, uneven bars (9.725) and vault (9.825), and was second on floor exercise (9.7) to Portage's Danielle Solis (9.775).
"I hit my beam series and I just added that," Algozine said. "That set a great tone for the whole meet."
Valpo counted no falls on beam, while Portage had to take three of its five falls into its score. The Vikings punctuated the meet with an event- and meet-best score on bars (28.675), going 1-2-3.
"It was a great exclamation point," Cook said. "We were just solid all the way through."
The Indians rebounded from their beam misfortune to register meet highs on floor (28.525) and vault (28.45), but couldn't overcome the early deficit.
"Those are events we're more comfortable with," Portage coach Karen Barcelli said. "We're used to regrouping after beam. I think it's definitely in their heads. I don't even know what to say anymore. They fall when they're confident and they fall when they're nervous. (Valpo's) hit the two times we've seen them and they've been the better team because they hit. When we do hit, we'll see. I haven't exhausted all of my coaching plans."
In addition to her floor win, Solis managed a tie for sixth on beam despite a fall and was runner-up on vault (9.7) and all-around (37.55).
"Lately, I've been hitting my landings pretty good," Solis said. "I felt good about my (floor) routine. I didn't know (the score) would be that high. (Beam) was just one bad event. You've got to shake it off and do the best you can on the next one. You can't let it affect you the whole meet."
Beam, in contrast, was the high-water mark for the host Trojans, who fashioned the meet's top tally in the event with a 28.025.
"It's our best event, by far, our favorite event," Chesterton coach Lauren West said. "The girls are comfortable on beam. They don't dread it. It's rare to see such confidence on beam. (Former coach) Kathy (Wilburn) really trained the girls well. It's really nice to see them still getting better at the end of the year. They've surpassed my expectations."
Brandi Tuzinski was beam runner-up (9.475) and took third on vault (9.425) and all-around (37.175).