Jan. 23, 2014
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The No. 11 Fighting Illini look to ride its wave of momentum into the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis when Illinois takes on No. 13 Minnesota. The Big Ten clash is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at gophersports.com. General admission is $8 for adults and $5 for students, youth and seniors. Groups of 10+ can enjoy a discounted rate of $4.
LAST TIME OUT
Illinois opened at home in high fashion, delighting the Orange and Blue fans with a 196.175 tri-meet victory over Wisconsin-Eau Claire (185.975) and Centenary College (186.650). Giana O'Connor earned her first career all-around title with a 39.250, just 0.025 points shy of her career high. In all, five different Illini took home individual titles; more impressively, the top-five spots on each event belonged to all Illinois gymnasts as well.
A LOOK BACK VS. MINNESOTA
In 2013, the Illini traveled to Minnesota and came up short in a very strong performance, by the score of 196.775-196.350. The Illinois score was the second highest of the season and the ninth highest all-time. The two squads met again at the Big Ten Championships where the Orange and Blue hit its highest mark of the year, sixth highest all-time, with a 196.475, but Minnesota once again tallied a 196.775 for third place. Illinois last defeated Minnesota at Huff Hall in 2012 by the score 194.725-192.800. Finally, the last time the Illini claimed a dual meet victory in Minneapolis was Feb. 20, 2010 (W, 196.325-195.325).
The 2014 edition of the Fighting Illini are off to the best start in school history. In week one, the squad's 195.325 was the highest score to open a season and the first one to score above a 195. Retrospectively, the three years (2009, 11, 13) the Illini qualified for the NCAA Championships, the teams averaged a 193.783 in week one action. Also, the 49.275 on beam was the highest ever score recorded on an event in an Illinois season opener as well.
In the home opening tri-meet, the Illini delivered a dominant 196.175 win over Centenary and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. It was the first time that Illinois reached the 196 benchmark in week two action. Illinois continued to excel in its last event of the day, this time recording a 49.250 on floor.
B1G FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
On Monday, the conference office named Erin Buchanan Big Ten Freshman of the Week. In Saturday's home-opener Buchanan achieved a second place showing on vault with a 9.775, then recorded the highest marks of the day with a 9.925 on floor. The score earned the Haymarket, Va. native her first collegiate individual title. Buchanan became the third gymnast in Illinois history to be named Freshman of the Week, following in Amber See's and Giana O'Connor's footsteps.
BEAMING WITH DELIGHT
At Michigan State, Illinois scored a 49.275 on beam, which marked the third highest score in school history on the apparatus. Only the 2011 team has done better, scoring a 49.325 at Michigan State on Feb. 25 and then the record mark of 49.375 at the State of Illinois Classic on March 12. Furthermore, the Illini's 49.275 on beam was the second best score in week one college gymnastics. Only Oklahoma achieved a higher mark with a 49.375. Individually, the Illini sent five girls in its beam lineup to the podium. Elizabeth McNabb led the way in first place with a 9.875. Sunny Kato, Sarah Fiedler, Emily Lennon and Amber See all followed suit in a four-way tie for second place with a 9.850 each.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
After a great two week start, Illinois has found itself ranked highly both as a team and individually. The squad continues to climb the top-25 chart, this week checking in at No. 11 with its 195.750 average. After a solid day on bars at Huff, the Illini jumped 14 spots to a tie for 23rd nationally on the event. Illinois also jumped eight spots on floor to No. 10. Finally, the Orange and Blue stood firm with its No. 2 ranking on beam (49.175), this week behind Florida's 49.263; however, Illinois leapfrogged Oklahoma in the regional rankings on beam and hold the top spot in the South Central.
The Big Ten Freshman of the Week Erin Buchanan is tied for 35th nationally on floor and ranked fourth amongst all Big Ten gymnasts. Buchanan (9.888) trails just Nebraska's Emily Wong (9.950), Michigan's Joanna Sampson (9.938) and Minnesota's Lindsay Mable (9.933).
Elizabeth McNabb's strong start on beam has landed the senior into a tie for ninth nationally and second in the Big Ten with an average of 9.863. Nebraska' Jennifer Lauer maintains a slight lead with a 9.888. Freshman Emily Lennon is also off to a solid start on beam, her average of 9.825 is tied for 27th in the country and seventh in the conference.
A trio of all-arounders have emerged to start the 2014 season for the Illini. Sarah Fiedler is currently ranked the highest, checking in at No. 27 this week in the all-around with an average of 39.063. The senior had only competed in the all-around twice before this season, but is off to a great start after two weeks, and still hasn't scored below a 39 in her career. Senior Amber See is ranked 31st with a 39.000 average. See has claimed two vault titles and one floor title to start her last season at Illinois. The Minnesota native also tallied a 39.250 in week one, which marked the third highest score in her career. Finally, Giana O'Connor returned to the fold after competing in the all-around for every meet last season. The sophomore bounced back in week two by winning her first all-around title with a 39.250. O'Connor's 38.950 average is tied for 35th in the country.
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