Jan. 13, 2012
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Week 1 Notes: #15 Illinois vs. #22 Minnesota
Jan. 14, 2012 // 4 p.m. CT // Champaign, Ill. // Huff Hall
The No. 15 Fighting Illini kick off the 2012 season against No. 22 Minnesota on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. CT at Huff Hall. The Illini finished ahead of the Golden Gophers at a regular season triangular meet and at the Big Ten Championships last year. Minnesota is coming off a 195.375-195.075 loss to Ohio State in its season opener last weekend. Illinois is opening the season at Huff Hall for the first time since 2001 when it welcomed Penn State to Champaign to start the year.
The Illinois women's gymnastics team will begin the 2012 season ranked 15th in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, marking the fifth-consecutive time and sixth overall that the Illini have been in the nation's top 25 heading into a season. Last season, the Illini started the year tabbed 17th while their highest-ever ranking (No. 13) came in 2010. They checked in at 16th in 2009, 23rd in 2008 and 25th back in 1999 to begin the season. Six other Big Ten schools appeared in the top 25, led by Nebraska at No. 6 followed by No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State, No. 18 Ohio State, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 25 Iowa. Michigan State received votes in the poll and sits just outside the top 25. A total of seven opponents on Illinois' schedule are ranked in the preseason top 25, as the Illini will start the season by facing preseason ranked foes at the first five meets. That stretch is capped off by a quadrangular meet at Navy Pier on Feb. 10, which includes the top-ranked Bruins, No. 14 Boise State and Missouri.
New Year, New Look
The Illini lost two of the most decorated gymnasts in school history following the graduation of standout all-arounders Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez, who combined for seven of the 11 All-America honors in school history. Illinois also lost its leadoff on beam and floor in Samantha Perino, meaning it will need to replace 10 routines from a year ago. Despite the loss of those seniors, the Illini still return 14 routines, eight letterwinners, two All-Americans in senior Kelsey Joannides and junior Alina Weinstein, and a Big Ten champion in sophomore Amber See.
After having the interim tag removed over the summer, Landrus will remain at the helm for the Illini along with bars coach Jay Santos, who was promoted to Associate Head Coach, and new assistant coach Rodney Gust, who will serve as the vault and floor coach for the Illini. Volunteer assistant coach Jess Bartgis, who spent time at Pittsburgh and Iowa State, also will help the coaching staff with coordinating floor music and choreography along with assisting on beam and floor. Along with the new faces on the coaching staff, the Illini also welcome six newcomers to the squad.
2011 in Review
Highest Finish in School History: In her first season as interim head coach, Kim Landrus led Illinois to its highest national ranking in school history, as the Illini wrapped up the year ranked No. 11 following their second-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships. The top-12 final rankings were based on team score at nationals, and the Orange and Blue scored a 195.100 in their semifinal, just in front of Kent State's 195.000 from the second session. Illinois ended the season in the top 25 for the sixth year in a row while its previous top finish came in 2009 when the Illini made their first NCAA appearance and placed 12th in the country.
Six Illini All-Americans: Heading into the NCAA Championships, Illinois gymnasts had earned five All-America honors in school history. The Illini more than doubled the record books by racking up six All-America accolades during the afternoon semifinal session at the Wolstein Center, giving the UI program 11 total All-Americans. Senior Melissa Fernandez was responsible for half the honors, leading the way with a pair of first-team All-America honors on beam and in the all-around along with a second-team nod on floor. Senior Allison Buckley and sophomore Alina Weinstein were also second-team All-Americans on floor while junior Kelsey Joannides garnered the distinction on vault for placing among the top eight in the session.
Big Ten Vault Champion: Freshman Amber See tied for the Big Ten vault title with a 9.900, giving the Illini a freshman champion on the event for the second time in three years after Kelsey Joannides captured the top spot in 2009. See earned a career high on the event for the second time and tied for the top spot with Penn State's Sharaya Musser, giving Illinois its 12th individual conference crown in school history.
A Look Ahead
Illinois travels to Iowa City, Iowa, the site of the 2012 Big Ten Championships, for a showdown with No. 25 Iowa on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.
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