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    Women's Gymnastics

    Illini Drop Close Meet to #22 Spartans
    Sophomore Sarah Schmidt won the bars title after missing the past two meets due to an ankle injury.

    Sophomore Sarah Schmidt won the bars title after missing the past two meets due to an ankle injury.

    Feb. 16, 2008

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    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team fell to #22 Michigan State by a score of 194.750-194.425 Saturday night in front of 1,059 fans at Huff Hall. Freshman Allison Buckley led the Illini with individual titles on floor and in the all-around competition and sophomore Sarah Schmidt won her first bars title of the year.

    "We didn't finish as strong as we would have liked," head coach Bob Starkell said. "We were a little conservative and that kind of made some things happen that we normally don't do. We didn't count any major breaks today, but a couple of the small things caught up to us."

    The Illini started off strong on vault with a score of 48.725, giving them an early advantage over the Spartans after the first rotation. Buckley took second place with a score of 9.850, while junior Marijka Botterman was close behind with a 9.800 to finish third. Sophomore Nicole Cowart and senior Michelle McGrady also had solid vaults, each posting a 9.700.

    The Illini took the top three scores on bars (48.500) to help maintain a 97.225-96.800 lead after two rotations. Sophomore Sarah Schmidt made her presence felt in her return to action this week following an ankle injury, winning the bars title with a score of 9.775. Cowart and Botterman rounded out the top-3 with scores of 9.750 and 9.700, respectively.

    "Sarah (Schmidt) was back a little bit sooner than I had anticipated," Starkell said. "She worked really hard throughout the week and it paid off. It really helps having someone like her on bars for the team in terms of confidence."

    Illinois held onto a narrow lead (145.825-145.550) heading into the final rotation after posting its second highest beam score of the season with a 48.600. Buckley and junior Julie Crall led the Illini on beam, each posting scores of 9.825. McGrady also had an impressive routine, garnering a career-high 9.800

    The Illini scored a 48.600 on their floor rotation, but it wasn't enough to hold off the Spartans who scored a 49.200 beam score on their final rotation. Buckley won her fourth floor title in the past 5 weeks with a score of 9.850. Freshman Melissa Fernandez, sophomore Lindsey Smith and Botterman each turned in scores of 9.700 on floor.

    Buckley won the all-around competition for the second time this season with a score of 39.150, while Cowart took third with a 38.325.

    "What you see out of Allison (Buckley) is what you get," Starkell said. "She works very hard in practice and that shows in competition. She had the opportunity to get a lot of experience competing in high school, so she is what I consider a veteran competitor right now. Floor exercise is her event and we expect to see her finish high each week."

    Illinois will head up to DeKalb, Ill. next Sunday, Feb. 24 to take on Northern Illinois at 2 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

    - ILLINI -

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