#23 Illini Nearly Upend #17 Nittany Lions
Feb. 6, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Allison Buckley broke the Illinois record in the all-around with a 39.525, but it wasn't enough as No. 23 Illinois dropped the close contest to No. 17 Penn State, 196.425-196.275. Buckley also matched her career high to garner the vault crown with a 9.900 and senior Sarah Schmidt tied for first place on floor with a season-high 9.925. The Schaumburg, Ill., native now has 33 career event titles, which is the fifth most on the UI all-time list.
"We had an unbelievable day with great performances on every event, so I really couldn't ask for much more," head coach Bob Starkell said. "Both squads were on their game tonight, and this type of meet really prepares us for the postseason."
Illinois has improved its team score with each meet this season and turned in the sixth-best team score in school history on Saturday, but couldn't overcome Penn State, who also set a season-best mark. The Illini won the battle on vault (49.000-48.825) and floor (49.175-49.150), but the Nittany Lions had the advantage on bars (49.350-49.175) and beam (49.100-48.925).
The Orange and Blue got off to a quick start with five great routines on uneven bars led by a career high 9.925 from Schmidt, who took second behind the meet's all-around champion Brandi Personett of Penn State. Buckley, senior Nicole Cowart and junior Melissa Fernandez all equaled their career highs of 9.850 to tie for fourth. Freshman Alina Weinstein added a 9.700, giving the Illini a 49.175 total, which is a season high and the seventh best score in school history.
On floor exercise, the Illini also turned in a season-high 49.175, paced by Schmidt's outstanding performance which tied Personett for the victory. Buckley was the next best Illini, recording a 9.850 to place fourth. Both Cowart and sophomore Kelsey Joannides added a season-high 9.825 followed by Fernandez, who rounded out the scoring with a season-best routine that earned a 9.750.
A solid showing on vault gave the Illini their second best score (49.000) of the season in the event, with Buckley posting the top score of the meet and Cowart taking third with a 9.825. Schmidt tied for fifth with a 9.800 followed by freshman Jaclyn Kantecki with a 9.750 and Fernandez with a 9.725.
The Illini wrapped up the night on balance beam and notched a 48.925, which is their second best score this season. Buckley and Fernandez, a pair of All-Americans on the event, led the way for the Orange and Blue, tying for second with season-highs of 9.925. Junior Lashlee Morris and Schmidt recorded scores of 9.750, and the Illini were forced to count a 9.575 from Cowart.
Personett did not score below a 9.850 and finished first in the all-around with a 39.600, just edging Buckley's record-setting 39.525. Schmidt came in third in the all-around with a career-high 39.400, which ranks fifth in school history and eclipsed her old mark of 39.275 set last year. Fernandez was the fourth-best all-arounder, resetting her career high for the second straight week with a 39.250. Cowart finished the evening with a 39.075 combined score.
"All of our all-arounders were on top of their game tonight," Starkell said.
Up Next: Illinois has a pair of meets next week, with the IGI Chicago Style Invite on Friday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and a dual meet against Michigan State at Huff Hall on Sunday, Feb. 14. at 2 p.m., which is the third annual "Think Pink" meet for breast cancer awareness.