Melissa Fernandez and Oklahoma's Megan Furguson, who tied for seventh place on the balance beam during the individual event finals of the 2009 NCAA Championships, will square off again on Saturday.
Jan. 21, 2010
#25 Illinois vs. #2 Oklahoma
Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010 // 7 p.m. CT // Huff Hall // Champaign, Ill.
No. 25 Illinois opens up its home season on Saturday, Jan. 23, as they take on No. 2 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall. The meet marks the Illini's second consecutive meet against a top-five opponent after squaring off against then-No. 3 Nebraska last week. The Illini last faced Oklahoma at the 2008 NCAA South Central Regional, where the Sooners edged the Orange and Blue (195.875-195.425) to finish second at the regional and advance to the NCAA Championships. Both squads advanced to the 2009 NCAA Championships, with Oklahoma competing in session one and Illinois in session two.
Follow the Action
Live scoring and streaming video (subscription required) will be available at fightingillini.com, with commentary this week by former Illini gymnasts Allison (Berg) Myles and current men's coach Justin Spring.
Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma defeated the ninth-ranked Auburn Tigers on Jan. 15 and remained at No. 2 in Monday's weekly GymInfo rankings. The Sooners hold a season average of 196.275, less than a tenth of a point behind the No. 1 UCLA Bruins (196.362), after hitting 47-of-48 routines en route to back-to-back wins over top-10 opponents during its first two weeks of competition. The Sooners also knocked off then-No. 8 Florida in their season opener, 196.250-195.275, and are currently ranked first in the country on bars (49.200) and beam (49.025). OU is a perfect 24-of-24 on those two events heading into the third week of competition. Individually, Hollie Vise holds top-five national rankings on bars (No. 4 - 9.887) and beam (No. 2 - 9.887), while Megan Ferguson is ranked fourth on beam (9.875). In 2009, Illinois' Melissa Fernandez tied for seventh place with Ferguson on the balance beam during the individual event finals of the NCAA Championships to become Illinois's first-ever first-team All-American.
Illinois associate head coach Kim Landrus and Oklahoma head coach K.J. Kindler share a common bond from their days with the Iowa State Cyclones. Landrus was a gymnast at Iowa State from 1993-97 when Kindler was an assistant coach there (1992-2000). Landrus returned to the Cyclones in 2000 as an assistant coach and served under Kindler when she was named head coach of the program in 2000. Landrus then joined the Illini in 2002, and Kindler took over as head coach of the Sooners in 2006.
A Look Back
Junior Allison Buckley picked up event titles in the all-around and on the balance beam to lead the No. 23 Fighting Illini to a second-place finish in a triangular meet at Nebraska on Jan. 15. Illinois turned in a score of 193.375, over a half point improvement from its season opener, to top No. 20 Minnesota (192.775), but couldn't overcome the third-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (195.200) on their home floor at the Devaney Center.
Illinois boasted three of the top four performers on balance beam, paced by Buckley's 9.850 that tied Nebraska's Kathryn Howard for first place. Buckley's success on beam also sealed her victory in the all-around, as she edged Nebraska's Maria Scaffidi (39.250) with a score of 39.275. The Schaumburg, Ill., native now has 30 career event titles, just two shy of cracking the top five on the UI all-time list.
Illinois Career Event Title Leaders
1. Nancy Thies (1976-77) - 58
2. Cara Pomeroy (2004-07) - 41
3. Denise Lamborn (1987-90) - 38
4. Heather Singalewitch (1987-90) - 34
5. Kim Berres (1996-99) - 32
6. Allison Buckley (2008-pres.) - 30
Buckley Earns Big Ten Honors
Buckley was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week by the conference this week after winning two event titles in the triangular meet at Nebraska. She finished each event with a score of 9.750 or better, while taking home the top spot in the all-around (39.275) and the balance beam (9.850). She also was the highest Illinois finisher in two other events, placing second on vault by tying her a career high with a 9.900 and third in the floor exercise with a 9.775.
Head coach Bob Starkell welcomes five new faces to the team this season in freshmen Elise Gill, Macy Hyatt, Jaclyn Kantecki, Abbie Leber and Alina Weinstein. Kantecki and Weinstein made their debuts at the Oregon State quad meet, and both newcomers contributed in their first collegiate competition. Kantecki counted her only two routines (vault and bars), while Weinstein turned in the third-best Illini beam score. Hyatt debuted at the Nebraska triangular, where the Orange and Blue counted her 9.600 on vault. Kantecki also counted all three routines at Nebraska, scoring 9.800 on vault, 9.650 on bars and 9.325 on floor.
Tough Tests Early
According to the latest GymInfo poll, three of Illinois' opponents at its first three meets are currently ranked in the top nine in the nation, with Oklahoma coming in at No. 2, Oregon State at No. 5 and last week's opponent, Nebraska, at No. 9. In total, Illinois is set to face eight opponents currently ranked in the Top 25.
Big Ten Preseason Poll
Illinois was picked second by the conference coaches in the inaugural Big Ten preseason gymnastics poll, just behind early favorite Penn State. Each coach also selected two of their gymnasts to form a 14-member Gymnasts to Watch List, which included Melissa Fernandez and Allison Buckley.
2009 in Review
Illinois made its first-ever team appearance at the NCAA Championships, finishing in sixth place in the evening preliminary session. With the national appearance, the Illini finished at No. 12 in the final national rankings, the highest final national ranking in school history.
Fernandez became Illinois' first NCAA first team All-American by tying for first place on balance beam in the evening session of the team prelims of the NCAA championships with a score of 9.900. Schmidt also earned All-American honors, tying for sixth place on floor in the evening session to earn second team honors. It marked the first time that Illinois has had more than one All-American in a season.
Illinois head coach Bob Starkell was named National Coach of the Year and assistants Kim Landrus and Amy Kruse were named co-Assistant Coaches of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women (NACGC/W) at the NCAA Championships.
Buckley shared the West Regional Beam Title with an individual school record score of 9.95. Her score tied Stacy Redmond (1995) at the top of the individual record books. Buckley is just the third Illini in school history to earn an individual regional title, joining Nancy Thies (1976 and `77) and Cara Pomeroy (2004).
Joannides won the 2009 Big Ten Vault title with a career-high 9.925 and Schmidt shared the Big Ten Floor crown with a school-record tying 9.950 to give Illinois multiple event champions at the conference meet for the first time since 1990.
On the Road Again
Illinois hits the road again for a dual meet against Iowa on Saturday, Jan. 30. The Illini have five of their first six meets away from Huff Hall, with the next home competition not until Sunday, Feb. 14, which is the third annaul "Think Pink" meet for breast cancer awareness.
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