#13 Illini Take Third in Session, Fourth Overall at Big Ten's
March 22, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Eight schools entered Rec Hall on Saturday all vying for a Big Ten Championship. When the dust settled, the 13th ranked Fighting Illini women's squad finished third in the evening session with a 196.625. It marked the program's second highest team total ever scored at the Big Ten Championships.
Michigan had set the tone and the score to beat in the afternoon session, posting a 197.550. By 6 p.m. CT, that score earned Michigan the Big Ten Title. Nebraska won the evening session and finished second overall with a 196.950. Next, Minnesota edged out the Illini by 0.050 points for a spot on the podium as the Orange and Blue took fourth overall.
"Over the past several years we have continued to climb so now we can taste it, we want it," said Illinois head coach Kim Landrus. "We went out there and had a good competition, but we talked all year about how the small things add up. Today, those little things cost us a trip to the podium."
Illinois started the evening on vault where they recorded a 49.100. For the first time all year, the Illini counted scores from all underclassmen. Erin Buchanan led the way with a 9.875 followed by a 9.85 from both Mary Jane Horth and Giana O'Connor. Heather Foley tallied her highest vault since Feb. 21, supplying a 9.775. Lastly, Lennon scored a 9.75.
The Orange and Blue moved to bars next where they recorded a 49.225. It marked the second consecutive 49.225 on the event and the third in the last five meets. Sunny Kato, Sarah Fiedler and Horth tied for the highest score on the team with a 9.875, with the latter two tying their career high. O'Connor and Liz McNabb followed with a 9.8 each.
Illinois then tied for the highest beam score in the evening session with a 48.975. Despite a fall from the first gymnast, the Illini rallied as McNabb, Horth, Fiedler and Kato all scored a 9.8 as Amber See recorded a 9.775.
The Illini then finished strong on floor with a season high 49.325, tying the seventh best floor score in school history and their second best floor score at the Big Ten Championships. See and O'Connor led with a 9.9 each. See hit a 9.9 or higher for the seventh time this season as O'Connor tied her career high for the fourth time this year. Rounding out the scoring was Jordan Naleway (9.85), Fiedler (9.85) and Eberly/Buchanan (9.825).
"I think it's important and shows a lot about our character," said Landrus on the team's finish on floor. "We just went to floor and did what we know how to do and we capped off the night strong."
Thus, Fiedler and Horth shone bright for the Orange and Blue today, scoring above a 9.8 in all three events they competed. In addition, O'Connor was the squad's lone all-around competitor as the sophomore registered a 38.850.
Up next, the Illini will wait to hear which one of six NCAA Regional sites they will heading to on April 5. The NCAA selection show will air at 2 p.m. CT on NCAA.com on Monday.
"I think our recipe for success stays the same," stated Landrus on the team's road to Regionals. "It's the little details. We have got to stay hungry, stay after it and continue to grind. There's a lot of great teams out there and we are one of them. It's important now that we go back to the gym and correct those little things that went wrong today."