Senior Melissa Fernandez and the Illini will compete at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday, April 2.
March 30, 2011
#14 Illinois at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional
(Alabama, Penn State, Illinois, Auburn, Central Michigan, Kentucky)
Saturday, April 2, 2011 // 6 p.m. CT // Coleman Coliseum // Tuscaloosa, Ala.
No. 14 Illinois travels to the University of Alabama to compete at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional this Saturday, April 2 at 6 p.m. CT. Illinois enters the competition as the third seed in the six-team field, joining host No. 2 Alabama, No. 11 Penn State, No. 22 Auburn, No. 25 Central Michigan and Kentucky. Illinois will begin regional competition at Coleman Coliseum on a bye before floor and will rotate as follows: bye, floor, vault, bye, bars, beam. The Illini will attempt to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second time in program history, as they earned their first-ever national berth in 2009.
This is Illinois' 24th overall trip to the NCAA Regional Championships and second year in a row the squad will compete at the site of the Central Regional. The Illini received one of the coveted top-18 seeds for the third-consecutive season and notched a regional invite for the eighth year in a row. They will enter the Tuscaloosa Regional seeded third in the field of six teams that are vying for the two qualifying spots to the NCAA Championships. This year's competition will be one of the most competitive in history, as all six teams are ranked in the nation's top 30. No. 2 Alabama (197.120), No. 11 Penn State (196.210) and Illinois are the three seeded teams assigned to the regional, while No. 22 Auburn (195.305), No. 25 Central Michigan (195.190) and No. 30 Kentucky (194.945) round out the regional as seeds 4-6, respectively. Along with the six teams that qualified for the regional, individual competitors from Ball State, Bowling Green, Centenary, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan will compete in all four events and the all-around.
Advancing to the Next Level
The top two teams from each of the six regional sites around the country will advance to the National Collegiate Championships April 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition, the top two all-arounders not on a qualifying team advance, as well as each event winner if they are not already qualified with a team or as an all-arounder.
Last Year at Regionals
Last season, Illinois posted a third-place finish at the NCAA Central Regional in Kentucky, scoring a 195.425 at the Memorial Coliseum and finishing behind regional champion No. 1 Alabama (197.400) and runner-up No. 12 Nebraska (195.875), who earned the two automatic bids to the NCAA Championships. Schmidt advanced to the national meet as the top all-arounder on a non-qualifying team, while Buckley tied for the top spot on vault with a 9.900 to qualify for nationals in the event.
A Look Back
Last week at Minnesota's Sports Pavilion, the No. 16 University of Illinois women's gymnastics team took third place at the 2011 Big Ten Championships with a score of 196.075. The Illini notched stellar showings on floor, vault and bars, recording a score over 49 on the final three events on their way to a top-three finish for the fourth time in five years. Individually, four gymnasts reached the podium with nine top-five finishes, led by freshman Amber See tying for the Big Ten vault title with a 9.900.
With the Big Ten title on vault, the Illini boasted a freshman champion on the event for the second time in three years after Kelsey Joannides captured the top spot in 2009. See earned a 9.900 on the event for the second time this season and tied for the top spot with Penn State's Sharaya Musser, giving Illinois its 12th individual conference crown in school history. The Minnetonka, Minn., native also tied for fourth on floor with a 9.900.
Senior Melissa Fernandez tied for the runner-up spot in the all-around with Penn State's Madison Merriam after both combined for a 39.275 to finish behind Musser, who won the all-around competition with a 39.475. The Eudora, Kan., native also came in second on bars with a season-best score of 9.900 while junior Kelsey Joannides, who turned in scores over 9.8 on her three events, tied for second on beam with a 9.850.
Despite falling for the first time on beam this season, senior Allison Buckley bounced back and tallied three top-five finishes to close out the meet. The Schaumburg, Ill., native was part of a 10-way tie for third on bars with a 9.850, tied for fourth on vault with Fernandez with a 9.850 and equaled See for fourth on floor with a 9.900.
All-Big Ten Honors for Illini Trio
Three Illini earned All-Big Ten honors, as selected by the coaches, with seniors Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez being named to the first team and junior Kelsey Joannides garnering second-team accolades. Buckley collected first-team accolades for the third time in her career, as she also earned the honor in 2008 and 2010, and has earned conference honors all four years after also being a second-team selection in 2009. Fernandez notched first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row, while Joannides picked up Big Ten honors for the second time in her career after also being named to the second team as a freshman in 2009.
Record-Breaking State of Illinois Classic Victory
Senior Allison Buckley and the No. 16 Illinois women's gymnastics team rewrote the UI record book at the State of Illinois Classic, as four different school records were either set or tied. The Illini won the quad meet between the four Division I Illinois schools for the fourth straight-year with a school-record score of 196.975, topping Northern Illinois (194.025), Illinois-Chicago (193.325) and Illinois State (192.650). Buckley eclipsed her own all-around record by winning the title with a 39.550 and tied the top beam mark in program history with a 9.950, helping the Orange and Blue reset the beam record for the second time this season with a 49.375.
The Illini swept all four event titles and the top three spots in the all-around while also posting scores over 49 on every event. Junior Kelsey Joannides matched her career high with a 9.925 to win the vault title while senior Melissa Fernandez and sophomore Alina Weinstein tied for the top spot on bars with a score of 9.875. Buckley, who now owns 62 career event titles, equaled her own school record to win the beam crown with a 9.950 and tied a career best with a 9.925 on floor to earn the victory. Fernandez was the runner-up in the all-around with a 39.300 followed by Weinstein in third with a personal-best total of 39.250.
Illini in the Rankings
Illinois matched its highest ranking of the season this week, checking in at No. 14 with an RQS of 195.925 in this week's GymInfo Top 25 national rankings. They also attained that mark on Feb. 21. The Illini began the season at No. 17 in the preseason poll and have remained in the rankings during each week of the season. Dating back to last year, the Orange and Blue have been ranked for 22 straight weeks. The rankings over the final six weeks of the season are based on a team's regional qualifying score, while the first six weeks were based on season average. Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) takes each team's top six scores from the season, three of which must be away meets, throws out the high, then averages the remaining five scores.
As a team, the Illini are ranked eighth on floor and 11th on beam while also sitting in the nation's top 20 on bars (17th) and vault (T-18th) thanks to an RQS over 49 on each event. Among the six teams in the Tuscaloosa Regional, the Orange and Blue boast the second-best RQS on vault, beam and floor along with the third-best mark on bars.
Individually, Allison Buckley is tied for fifth in the nation on floor with an RQS of 9.900, which is tops among the gymnasts heading to the Tuscaloosa Regional, and 11th in the nation and third at the regional in the all-around with an RQS of 39.375. Melissa Fernandez is 19th in the nation and fifth at the regional in the all-around (39.230) while Kelsey Joannides is 12th in the nation and fourth at the regional on beam (9.875).
Sophomores in Action
All four Illini sophomores have seen action in the lineup this season. Jaclyn Kantecki tied for first on bars in Kentucky with a 9.825, giving her the second event title of her career, and set a season high on vault at the Oklahoma quadrangular with a 9.800. Elise Gill also made her Illini debut in the vault lineup at the season opener and has counted her score at three meets, including a career-high 9.700 at Ohio State. Macy Hyatt made her season debut at Missouri and has counted her bars score at the last seven meets, including a career-high 9.850 and runner-up finish at Michigan State along with a 9.800 at the Big Ten Championships.
Alina Weinstein has competed in the all-around at 11 of 12 meets this season and turned in a career-best performance at the State of Illinois Classic. The Plainsboro, N.J., native, tallied a personal-best all-around score of 39.250, tied a career high with a 9.875 and notched her best-ever beam mark with a 9.850 last weekend. On Feb. 19, she earned her first victory in the all-around with a 39.150 against UIC and also picked up her first career event title with a victory on bars after scoring a 9.800 against the Flames. A career-high 9.900 on bars at Oklahoma paced her all-around score of 39.100, the third-highest of her career. At the Big Ten Championships, she was eighth in the conference with an all-around score of 39.025.
Interim head coach Kim Landrus welcomes a talented recruiting class in her first season at the helm in freshmen Sarah Fiedler, Elizabeth McNabb and Amber See. Fiedler and See have made an immediate impact in the Illini lineup, which lost eight routines following the graduation of all-arounders Nicole Cowart and Sarah Schmidt. Fiedler set a career high on bars at back-to-back meets with a 9.825 at the State of Illinois Classic and Big Ten Championships. She has counted her bars score at nine meets and also owns a season-best beam performance of 9.725 against Missouri. See became the second freshman to win the Big Ten title on vault in the last three years at Illinois, joining teammate Kelsey Joannides, who earned the honor in 2009. The Minnetonka, Minn., native has won four vault titles and one floor crown this season, with career highs on vault (9.900) and floor (9.925), which tie the sixth-best mark in school history. She also has made the beam lineup at the past five meets, including at the conference meet, and twice helped the squad break the school record on the event.
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