Sunny Kato and the Illini look to bounce back this Saturday at #13 Minnesota
Feb. 7, 2013
Week 5 Notes: #22 Fighting Illini at #13 Minnesota Gophers
Feb. 9, 2013 // 4 p.m. CT // Minneapolis, Minn. // Sports Pavilion
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The No. 22 University of Illinois women's gymnastics team journeys to the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis to once again take on a ranked Big Ten opponent in No. 13 Minnesota. The Gophers and Illini met twice last season. First, the Orange and Blue bested Minnesota in Champaign by a score of 194.725-192.800. However, at the Big Ten Championships, the Gophers secured third place with a 195.950, barely ousting out the fifth place Illini by a margin of 0.100. To order tickets to the event, simply call 612-624-8080.
Scouting the Competition
Minnesota enters Saturday's meet on quite the hot streak, as they are currently 8-0 overall and 3-0 in conference. The Gophers started off with a dual win over Washington. Next, they followed that performance with back to back first place finishes in quad meets, where they bested the likes of Penn State, Kent State, Towson, Central Michigan, Iowa State and #1 Michigan. Last weekend, Minnesota extended their winning streak with a 194.325-192.625 win over Michigan State. The Gophers currently average a team score of 195.550 while producing a season high of 196.800 on Jan. 26 when they ousted the Wolverines. Minnesota ranks in the top-12 in every event except bars, where the Illini (20th-48.775) hold a ranked advantage over the Gophers (34th-48.569). Finally, Minnesota offers two quality all-around performers in Jenny Covers and Lindsay Mable. The duo currently rank back-to-back in the national rankings at 42nd and 43rd, respectively. Covers is averaging a 39.083 while Mable's average is a 39.075.
A Look Back
The No. 19 University of Illinois women's gymnastics team gave No. 7 Nebraska all they could handle early on inside the Bob Devaney Center last Friday night; however, the Cornhuskers capitalized on a few Illini mishaps to escape with a 195.750-194.750 win. Notable performers of the meet include Alina Weinstein who set a new career high on vault with a score of 9.900. In addition, freshman Giana O'Connor recorded the top spot for the Illini in the all-around with a second place finish and score of 39.050.
O'Connor Named Big Ten Freshman of the week
On Monday, the Big Ten named Giana O'Connor Freshman of the Week for her performance against then No. 7 Nebraska. This marked O'Connor's first conference recognition and first weekly award of her young collegiate career and the first for the Orange and Blue this season. O'Connor picked up the third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor in Illini history and became the second gymnast to do so in the award's short existence. Current junior Amber See became the first on Feb. 21, 2011 and earned the award again just two weeks later.
O'Connor finished in second place in the all-around competition with a score of 39.050 in the dual meet against the Cornhuskers. The Streamwood native also placed in the top-10 in every event , including a fifth-place showing on balance beam (9.750) and floor exercise (9.775), sixth on vault (9.800) and ninth on bars (9.725). With four meets under her belt, O'Connor now ranks 61st in the country in the all-around with an average of 38.906. The freshman's best event so far has been the balance beam, where she ranks 35th with a 9.819 average.
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 qualified for Nationals in 2012, has picked up right where she left off, scoring at least a 39 in her first four meets. In the win over Michigan State, Weinstein set her current season high in the all-around with a 39.375, just 0.075 off from her career high of 39.450.
Freshman Giana O'Connor has impressed Coach Landrus and Illini nation early on. In fact, O'Connor set career highs in vault and floor against Michigan State with scores of 9.825 and 9.850, respectively. Furthermore, O'Connor's steady improvements have resulted in the freshman obtaining a career high 39.250 against the Spartans as well. O'Connor will look to continue her 3 meet streak of scoring above a 39 this weekend against Minnesota.
The Illini rank in the top-20 in two events. Illinois is currently 18th on the balance beam with a 48.769 average. 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 35th in the nation with an average of 9.819. 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. Furthermore, the Illini rank 20th on bars with a 48.775 average. Alina Weinstein paces the Illini here as she is ranked 51st in the event with an average of 9.819. Illinois has also found individual success on floor. Alina Weinstein achieved the first floor title for the Illini against the Spartans when she accomplished a 9.900. Also, Weinstein posted the highest individual score of the season with a 9.925 on floor at Michigan.
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
The special annual event known as Gym Jam lies ahead for Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 16. The Illini will welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes for a 4 p.m. CT start time inside Huff Hall. The first 500 fans will receive a free Illini Gymnastics water bottle and free food. There will also be games, prizes and face painting for kids, including an autograph session with all the Illini gymnasts after the meet. Gym Jam is also in conjunction with the men's gymnastics team who will also be hosting Iowa at the event.
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