Illinois Hosts MSU in Home Opener Pink Meet
Jan. 25, 2013
Week 3 Notes: Fighting Illini vs Michigan State Spartans
Jan. 26, 2013 // 4 p.m. CT // Champaign, Ill. // Huff Hall
The Fighting Illini return to Champaign for their home opener Saturday, Jan. 26, as they welcome the Michigan State Spartans. The dual meet will be for the coveted Victory Plank trophy as well play host to the Illini's annual Pink Meet. Fans who can't make it out to Huff Hall can watch the stream via Fighting Illini All-Access. The meet is scheduled for a 4 p.m. CT start time.
Saturday marks the sixth straight year Illinois will sponsor different activities to help raise awareness about cancer during the meet. There will be informational booths from Relay for Life, Young Survivor's Coalition and Colleges Against Cancer. The Illini will be sporting pink leotards during the meet. Plus, those fans in attendance who wear pink will be entered to win a prize.
Scouting the Competition
Michigan State enters the weekend 0-2, after suffering defeats vs. Western Michigan and Nebraska. The Spartans 192.413 average ranks 48th in the nation. Their highest scoring event is the vault, where they rank 40th with a 48.575.
Victory plank on the line
Beginning in 2010, the Illini and Spartans added a little extra incentive to their Big Ten dual meet by putting the "Victory Plank" rivalry trophy up for grabs for the first time. This traveling trophy, which was created by boosters from Michigan State, consists of a piece of a classic-looking balance beam on platform, reminiscent of the 1970s when the beams were made of wood. Illinois and Michigan State have consistently met throughout the years since 1976, with the Illini holding a recent advantage in the series after winning six of the past eight dual meets since 2004. The Illini captured the inaugural trophy each of the first two years after defeating MSU in 2010 (195.600-195.500) and 2011 (195.225-195.000), while last season the competition ended in a tie (195.175).
A Look Back
The Fighting Illini improved their team score from last week by 1.350, posting a 195.100 in a loss at No. 2 Michigan (197.350). The Orange and Blue were victorious over the Wolverines on the balance beam where they scored a 49.250. The score marked the third highest beam total in school history. Illinois was led by sophomore Sunny Kato who won her first collegiate event title. Kato also co-led the squad on bars with a career high 9.825.
Trio of All-Arounders
Last week saw the emergence of a trio of all-arounders for the Illini, as Amber See joined Alina Weinstein and Giana O'Connor. Weinstein improved her all-around score, finishing third with a 39.350, just .100 shy of her career high. Freshman Giana O'Connor improved in every category, nearly raising her all-around score by an entire point, going from 38.225 to a 39.100. Finally, See, who saw her first all-around action since last February, posted a 38.925.
First Time out
Alina Weinstein paved the way for the Orange and Blue, finishing in second place in the All-Around with a score of 39.175, 0.300 behind leader Aubree Cristello from Arizona. Weinstein also fueled the floor exercise team score by posting a 9.825 in the event. Junior Sarah Fiedler achieved a career high on the uneven bars with a score of 9.850. In addition, Sunny Kato, Giana O'Connor and Heather Foley officially competed in the Illinois leotard for the first time. O'Connor competed in the all-around as she produced a meet high of 9.825 on the balance beam. Furthermore, Kato contributed scores to both beam and bars while Foley debuted on the vault.
The Illinois women's gymnastics team began the 2013 season ranked 18th in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, marking the sixth consecutive time and seventh overall that the Illini have been in the nation's top 25 heading into a season. Last season, the Orange and Blue started 15th, while their highest ever ranking (No. 13) came in 2010. "To be ranked in the Top-25 for the sixth consecutive year is a nice recognition as it shows the consistency in our program over the past several years," said Illinois head coach Kim Landrus. Five other Big Ten schools join the University of Illinois in the preseason top-25, ensuring an exciting 2013 conference season. 2012 Big Ten Champion Nebraska earned the highest ranking in the Big Ten, as they checked in at No. 7. Michigan was next at No. 10, followed by Ohio State at No. 14, Penn State at No. 16 and Minnesota at No. 23. In addition, the Illini are also set to battle No. 21 Missouri this year, bringing the total to eight preseason ranked opponents on the 2013 schedule.
New Year, New Look
The Illini lost two decorated gymnasts following the graduation of standouts Kelsey Joannides and Hannah Welker. Joannides, who won the Big Ten title on vault as a freshman, capped off her collegiate career with a Big Ten Beam title and became the first two-time Big Ten Champion at Illinois since the championships were officially recognized by the conference in 1982-83. Welker competed on bars and floor last season in which she set career highs of 9.850 and 9.775, respectively. The Illini will also be without vault and floor standout Elise Gill, as she is out for the season with an injury. Despite the loss of Joannides, Welker and Gill, the Illini return 16 of 24 routines, including All-Big Ten honorees Alina Weinstein and Amber See. Illinois will look to improve upon last season's mark of securing 51 individual titles.
A Look Ahead
Illinois hits the road again next weekend in their first Friday night dual meet of the season. On Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. CT, the Illini travel to Lincoln, Neb., to battle the defending Big Ten Champs, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
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