Women's Gymnastics
No. 19 Fighting Illini Edged By No. 17 Ohio State

Freshman Allison Buckley led the Illini with three individual titles.
Freshman Allison Buckley led the Illini with three individual titles.

Jan. 19, 2008

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The No. 19 Fighting Illini Women's Gymnastics team fell to No. 17 Ohio State in its home opener at Huff Hall on Saturday night by a score of 193.450-193.125 in front of 1,231 fans. Freshman Allison Buckley led the way for the Illini, winning the vault, floor, and the all-around competition.

"We improved on our performance last week at Alabama, but we're still trying to get rid of some major mistakes that we are having," head coach Bob Starkell said. "Some of them were new this week, and we have got to figure out a way to rectify them before next weekend."

The Illini trailed by a slim margin after posting a 48.550 in their first rotation on vault, while the Buckeyes scored a 48.675 on bars. The Illini took the top three places on vault, led by Buckley's first place 9.800. Junior Marijka Botterman placed second with a 9.775, while senior Michelle McGrady tied third with a 9.725.

Illinois then moved on to their second rotation where they captured the lead with a 48.325 score on bars. Sophomore Nicole Cowart captured third place on bars with a 9.725, while Buckley and sophomore Sarah Schmidt were close behind with scores of 9.700 and 9.675, respectively. The Illini led 96.875-96.675 halfway through the competition.

For the second straight week, the Illini had some problems on beam and posted their lowest event total of the evening with a 48.100. However, junior Julie Crall highlighted the rotation by capturing the beam title with a 9.825, while Buckley came in third with a 9.750. Despite the struggles, the Illini still held a slim lead after three rotations, 144.975-144.825.

"We did a little bit better on beam today, but we still have to work on gaining more confidence," Starkell said. "The balance beam is the toughest event, so it can play a lot of mental games with you."

In their final rotation of the evening, the Fighting Illini garnered the top four individual scores, but suffered two major mistakes en route to a 48.150, while the Buckeyes went six-for-six on beam to narrowly take the team race. For the Orange and Blue, Buckley once again led the way by placing first with a 9.825. Cowart was the runner-up with a 9.750, while Botterman and Schmidt each posted a 9.700 to tie for third.

Buckley bettered her scores from last week on every event on her way to winning the all-around competition with a 39.075. Cowart finished third in the all-around with a 38.800, just behind OSU's Kaylan Clevinger (38.850).

"We knew Allison was going to be a great competitor coming into this season," Starkell said. "When competing all-around with Nicole (Cowart), if you can hang with her, then you are having a good day."

The Illini will head to Iowa next weekend where they will take on the Hawkeyes on Friday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.