Junior Allison Buckley scored a 9.825 or above on each event to pick up the all-around title with a 39.400.
Feb. 20, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - No. 20 Illinois notched the fifth-best team score in school history, as junior Allison Buckley shined in the Illini's 196.325-195.325 win over Minnesota on Saturday night. Buckley scored a 9.825 or above on each event to pick up the all-around title with a 39.400, tying the fifth-best mark in school history set by senior Sarah Schmidt earlier this year. The Schaumburg, Ill., native also notched her fourth title on vault this season with a 9.850, moving her into sole possession of fourth place on the UI career event titles list with 36.
"We were on top of our game tonight," head coach Bob Starkell said. "There really wasn't an event that we slacked on at all. Allison is really a strong competitor and has led by example, but it has been such a great team environment overall. They are all feeding off each other from one event to another, and their confidence is really improving."
Illinois did not have a single fall and held the advantage on every event, marking the second time they have accomplished the feat this season. The Orange and Blue boasted the top individual on three of the four events at the Sports Pavilion, as junior Melissa Fernandez took the top spot on bars and Schmidt repeated as floor champion with a 9.925 for the second straight week to go along with Buckley's vault crown. Fernandez also reset her career high in the all-around with a 39.325 to garner the runner-up spot.
A strong start on uneven bars gave the Illini an early lead, which they never relinquished. Fernandez paced the Orange and Blue's score of 49.150 on the event and picked up her seventh event title of the year with a 9.875. Buckley and senior Nicole Cowart each turned in a 9.850 to tie for second, while Schmidt added a 9.825 and tied for fifth. Freshman Alina Weinstein rounded out the scoring with a 9.750, giving Illinois over a half a point advantage to begin the night.
"We had a lot of good energy with our start on bars and really stuck the landings," Starkell said. "It was really impressive, and then we vaulted well even if the score doesn't show it."
During the second rotation, Buckley, who ranks 16th in the nation on vault, led the Illini to a 48.850 on the event. Sophomore Kelsey Joannides was the next best Illini, tying for third with a 9.775, while Fernandez and freshman Jaclyn Kantecki tied for fifth with scores of 9.750. Cowart turned in a 9.725 to take seventh and complete the Illini scoring.
On floor exercise, Illinois posted a season-high 49.225 for the second consecutive week, as Schmidt scored a 9.925 for the third time in the last four meets. Buckley was the runner-up on the event with a 9.875, which marked her top score of the night, while Fernandez tied for third with a 9.825. Junior Samantha Perino tallied a career-high 9.800 to tie for fifth with Joannides and wrap up the scoring.
"Sam (Perino) had a spectacular night," Starkell said. "She had a stellar performance on both her events, and her routine to start us off on floor was very important after the scores were a little tight after vault."
Illinois closed out the meet on balance beam, scoring a season-high 49.100 to tie the eighth-best score in school history. Fernandez recorded a runner-up finish with a 9.875, while a trio of Illini, Buckley, Joannides and Perino, tied for fourth with 9.825s. That score marked another career high for Perino and a season high for Joannides. Cowart led off the event with a 9.750, which was the final Illini score to count.
Up Next: Illinois returns to Champaign for a string of three straight Saturday home meets at Huff Hall. The Illini square off against No. 16 Michigan on Feb. 27 and then take on Ohio State on March 6, which will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. On March 13, the Illini will celebrate Senior Day, as they face No. 17 Missouri in the final home meet of the season.