Senior Ben Newman posted a career-high 9.700 on rings Saturday evening in the Illini's victory over No. 5 Penn State.
Feb. 12, 2005
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It may not have been pretty, but the Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team kept their winning streak intact by posting their third team victory of the season Saturday evening against defending NCAA champions Penn State by the score of 221.825--221.350. The defeat is the first of the season for the Nittany Lions (15-1), while the Illini move to 7-0-1.
While the win for the Illini was not as clean as head coach Yoshi Hayasaki would have preferred, the Illini coach is still proud of his team for pulling out on top.
"We just made too many mistakes," said Hayasaki. "Especially on parallel bars, which is usually a very good event for us. Same thing on floor exercise and high bar--I thought our focus just wasn't there. We had a little bit of a letdown coming off last week's Winter Cup where we had such a strong showing. But to come out with a win is a good sign for our team, knowing that while we didn't do our best, we were still able to pull out a win."
Illini began the night on floor exercise, where junior Adam Pummer led the Orange and Blue with a 9.700, tying his career-high. Despite Pummer's performance, Penn State would take a brief lead after the first rotation, paced by senior Luis Vargas' 9.725 on pommel horse.
Boosted by a 37.650 team score on pommel horse, the Illini regained the lead in the second rotation. Senior Ben Newman took first-place with a 9.750, while junior Ted Brown and freshman Tyler Yamauchi both notched a 9.550 to tie for second-place.
The Orange and Blue followed up with an impressive 38.000 team ring score, with Newman once again leading the pack with a career-high 9.700, good enough for third-place overall. Rookie Jon Drollinger also enjoyed a career-high on rings with a 9.300, while senior Nick Hand tied his career-best of 9.100.
With a rocky showing on parallel bars by the Illini, Penn State was able to slip back into contention for the win with a strong showing on vault. Heading into the final rotation, the Nittany Lions held a 0.35 lead. However, the high bar awaited Illinois, and led by junior Justin Spring, who is the defending NCAA champion and reigning 2005 Winter Cup gold medalist on the event, the Illini had what it took to pull out the victory in the end. Spring tied for first on high bar with PSU standout Luis Vargas with a 9.650.
While pleased with the win, Hayasaki hopes that tonight's performances serve as an eye-opener for the Orange and Blue who will head west to face California at the Pacific Coast Challenge next weekend.
"Cal is one of the powerhouses on the west coast," Hayasaki commented. "And it should be a good competition for us because it's a totally different environment. However, we need better training this week--I know these guys can put together better performances and better competitions and we hope to get all that accomplished the next several days in practice."
Up Next: The Illini have two straight road meets, beginning Saturday, Feb. 19 in Oakland, Ca. for the Pacific Coast Invite at 9 p.m. CST. The Orange and Blue follow up with a dual in Philadelphia, Pa. against Temple Feb. 26 before returning to Huff Hall March 5 for a 7 p.m. matchup with Iowa and the Japan All-Stars.