#19 Illinois To Take on Defending Big Ten Champs #7 Nebraska
Jan. 31, 2013
Week 4 Notes: #19 Fighting Illini at #7 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Feb. 1, 2013 // 6 p.m. CT // Lincoln, Neb. // Bob Devaney Center
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The No. 19 University of Illinois women's gymnastics team travels to Lincoln Friday, Feb. 1, to take on the defending Big Ten champions, No. 7 Nebraka. The meet gets underway at 6 p.m. CT inside the Bob Devaney Center. Last year in Iowa City at the conference championship, Nebraska bested Illinois (195.850) and the rest of the Big Ten with a score of 197.100. The Illini last traveled to Lincoln on Jan. 15, 2010 where Allison Buckley won two event titles and the team finished second in the tri-meet, in front of Minnesota but behind Nebraska.
Scouting the Competition
Nebraska enters Friday's meet ranked seventh in the country with a season average score of 196.383 and a 2-1 record. The Cornhuskers started the season with a 196.900-196.300 loss to Michigan, but followed that up with back-to-back wins vs Michigan State and Ohio State. In the victory over the Spartans, Nebraska scored a season high 196.700. The defending Big Ten champions rank in the top-15 in every category: 13th on vault (49.100), 7th on uneven bars (49.142), 3rd on balance beam (49.167) and tied for 11th on floor (48.975). In addition, Nebraska welcomes back returnee Emily Wong, who is the reigning Big Ten champ on beam, floor and the all-around.
A Look Back
For the second consecutive week, the Illini improved the team score by an entire point, beating the visiting Michigan State Spartans with a season high score of 196.125. In addition, Illinois recorded season highs on vault and floor with 48.925 and 49.250, respectively. In beating Michigan State, the Illini once again claimed the rivalry trophy `the Victory Plank.' Three gymnasts achieved new career highs in the pink meet against the Spartans. Sarah Fiedler scored a 9.825 on floor, besting her previous high of 9.775. Also on floor, Jordan Naleway topped her previous high of 9.675 with a 9.800. Finally, freshman Giana O'Connor set new career highs on vault (9.825), floor (9.850) and the all-around (39.250).
Illinois also took home four event titles to add to Sunny Kato's beam title against Michigan. Last weekend, the Illini's Alina Weinstein picked up the uneven bars (9.825), floor (9.900), and all-around (39.375) titles while Giana O'Connor earned her first collegiate title with a first place finish on balance beam (9.850).
"The team is coming off of a strong performance against Michigan State," said Illinois head coach Kim Landrus. "The girls got back in the gym and continued to work on the little details. They are really determined to go into Nebraska and continue the success we had."
Duo of All-Arounders
Two all-around competitors have emerged from the Illini line-up, combining both youth and experience to the mix. Senior veteran Alina Weinstein, who won the NCAA Champaign Regional and qualifeid for Nationals in 2012, has picked up right where she left off, scoring at least a 39.175 in her first three mets. In last weekend's win over Michigan State, Weinstein set a new season high in the all-around with a 39.375, inching closer and closer to her career high of 39.450.
Freshman Giana O'Connor has impressed Coach Landrus and Illini nation early on. In fact, O'Connor has improved her all-around score in every meet thus far, even setting new career highs in vault and floor against Michigan State last weekend. Furthermore, O'Connor's steady improvements have resulted in the freshman obtaining a career high 39.250 against the Spartans.
The Illini have started the 2013 campaign with a 2-3 record and 1-1 in Big Ten dual action. The Illini's best event so far has been the balance beam where they rank 11th in the nation with a season average of 48.858. Their season high of 49.250 on beam against Michigan ranked as the third highest beam score in Illinois history. Individually, freshman Giana O'Connor leads the way on beam as she is ranked 23rd in the nation with an average of 9.842. In addition, it was Sunny Kato's 9.875 on beam at Michigan that earned the Illini their first event title of 2013. A week later, O'Connor earned another beam title for the Orange and Blue with a score of 9.850. Illinois has also found success on floor where they currently rank 24th with a 48.717. Alina Weinstein achieved the first floor title for the Illini this past weekend when she accomplished a 9.900. Furthermore, Weinstein posted the highest Illini individual score so far with a 9.925 on floor at Michigan.
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. Five other Big Ten schools join the University of Illinois in the preseason top-25, ensuring an exciting 2013 conference season. 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 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 continues on the road next weekend as they travel north to take on Big Ten rival Minnesota in Minneapolis at 4 p.m. CT.
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