#17 Illini Ready for Morgantown Regional
April 3, 2013
Week 12 Notes:
#17 Fighting Illini at the NCAA Morgantown Regional
April 6, 2013 // 5:00 p.m. CT // Morgantown, W.V. // WVU Coliseum
The No. 17 Fighting Illini travel to the University of West Virginia to compete at the NCAA Morgantown Regional this Saturday, April 6, at 5 p.m. CT. Illinois enters as the three seed in the six team field, joining No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 19 Kentucky, host West Virginia and North Carolina. The Orange and Blue will commence regional competition at the WVU Coliseum on a bye before floor and will rotate as follows: bye, floor, vault, bye, bars, beam. The Illini will be seeking to qualify for their third NCAA Championships in program history, previously accomplishing the feat in 2009 and 2011. Finally, Pennsylvania's Kirsten Strausbaugh will rotate with Illinois as an individual qualifier and perform last on each event.
REGIONALS PREVIEW - TEAM
This is Illinois' 26th overall trip to the NCAA Regional Championships and the 10th year in a row. The Illini received one of the coveted top-18 seeds for the fourth time in five years. Illinois, along with five other squads will duke it out for the top two qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships. At a glance, the top three seeded teams are essentially a condensed Big Ten Championships with No. 5 Michigan (197.235), No. 8 Nebraska (197.145) and No. 17 Illinois (196.210). Meanwhile, No. 19 Kentucky (196.060), host West Virginia (195.780) and North Carolina (195.200) round out the competing teams. In addition, five total all-arounders and one specialist for each event from teams that did not qualify for regionals (New Hampshire, Rutgers and Pennsylvania) will also be performing.
REGIONALS PREVIEW - INDIVIDUAL
Alina Weinstein returns to the stage where she has found great success and even made Illinois history. Last year, Weinstein advanced to the national meet by winning the all-around with a 39.450. This year, the senior continues to out-do herself, as she is currently ranked 11th in the nation in the all-around with a RQS of 39.505 and ranked fourth on floor with a 9.940. Weinstein also proved dangerous on vault after scoring the school's second ever 10.0. Junior Amber See has seen great success on floor as of late. The Minnesota native has scored a 9.950 twice in the previous three mets. Finally, sophomore Sunny Kato has been a major contributor on beam and bars, posting career highs of 9.9 on each.
The Illini will once again encounter Nebraska's Emily Wong who won the bars, beam, and floor event titles at the Big Ten Championships. The junior also won the all-around crown with a 39.725. This season, Wong is ranked fourth in the nation in the all-around with a 39.610. Also look out for Michigan's Joanna Sampson, who is nationally ranked first on floor (9.950) and fifth in the all-around (39.580).
ADVANCING TO THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Los Angeles, California, April 19-21, hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition, the event winners at each regional site will advance to the national championships (in that event only) if they are not part of a qualifying team or an all-around qualifier.
LAST YEAR AT REGIONALS
Illinois hosted an NCAA Regional at Assembly Hall for the first time in school history as the 2012 Fighting Illini finished in third place (195.725), behind Oklahoma (197.025) and Stanford (196.675). The finish marked their fifth-straight top-three showing. In addition, Alina Weinstein became the 10th individual NCAA National qualifier in program history by being the second-ever NCAA Regional All-Around Champion with a score of 39.450. The New Jersey native also tied for first on beam, resulting in her becoming just the second Illini to win multiple regional titles.
LAST TIME OUT - TEAM SOARS HIGH AT BIG TEN'S
Illinois, Michigan and Nebraska all competed at the Big Ten Championships on March 23. The Illini had their best meet to date as they scored a season high 196.475 and won the first session and took fourth overall. It was the first time this season the Orange and Blue tallied a 49 or higher on all four events. It also marked the second highest score posted by the Illini at the Big Ten Championships and sixth highest score tallied in school history. Alina Weinstein and Amber See finished in a four-way tie for second place on floor, scoring a 9.950. Furthermore, Weinstein finished in fifth place in the all-around with a 39.450. Meanwhile, Michigan took second with a 197.225 while Nebraska obtained first with a score of 197.8, fueled by a 49.725 on vault.
At the conclusion of the meet, the conference named the 2013 All-Championship Team, which consisted of the top three finishers in every event, and top three all-around finishes as well, based on scores from both sessions. Thus, Alina Weinstein and Amber See were bestowed with this honor.
FOUR ALL-BIG TEN HONOREES
Weinstein achieved her first career First Team All-Big Ten accolade. The senior has undoubtedly saved her best season for last, for in the past month alone she has broken the Illinois records on floor (9.975), vault (10.0) and the all-around (39.625). In addition, her perfect 10 was just the second in Illini history. Weinstein also ranks 11th in the country in the all-around and more impressively, fourth on floor.
Amber See grabbed her second straight second team All-Big Ten laurel. The junior's best event this season is floor where she is ranked 20th in the country with a RQS of 9.905. At the last home meet on March 10, See became one of seven gymnasts at Illinois to score a 9.950 on floor, which set a new career high for the Minnetonka, Minn. native. Then, See accomplished the feat again, but this time on the Big Ten Championships stage. Speaking of new career highs, See also established a new mark in the all-around this season with a 39.325.
Next up are first time winners in sophomore Sunny Kato and freshman Giana O'Connor. Kato, who is in her first year of competition for the Illini, has been instrumental for the Orange and Blue on bars and beam. The Chino Hills, Calif. native has set career highs of 9.9 on both events while also earning two individual titles on both as well. Furthermore, her four overall titles stands as the second most on the team.
O'Connor has been a constant all-around force for the Illini in 2013. The freshman has scored above a 39 in the previous six meets, including setting a new career high of 39.275. The Streamwood, Ill. native has also been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice, thus joining teammate Amber See as the only Illini to capture the freshman of the week honor twice in a season. Giana currently ranks 37th in the nation in the all-around.
CRACKING THE PERFECT VAULT
On March 16, at the State of Illinois Classic, Alina Weinstein accomplished a feat that had only been done once before in Illini women's gymnastics history. The senior scored a perfect 10, the first since Cara Pomeroy achieved the mark in 2004 on the uneven bars. It was the third perfect 10 on vault in all of NCAA Division-I this year and the seventh overall including all events. In the process, Weinstein broke the Illinois vault record set by Marijka Botterman (9.95) in 2009.
HISTORY MAKING PERFORMER
A week after tying 2011 alum Allison Buckley for the highest all-around score in school history with a 39.550, the senior outdid herself to stand alone as one of the all-time Illini greats by achieving a 39.600 in the meet vs. Iowa on Feb. 16. However, the New Jersey native wasn't done there. In the last meet of the regular season on March 16, Weinstein once again set a new mark, this time scoring a 39.625. Weinstein started on bars where she tied her season high of 9.900. Next, Weinstein moved to beam where she tallied a 9.800. Then, the Illinois floor record holder posted a 9.925 before ending the day perfect 10.0 on vault.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM FOR BIG TEN GYMNAST OF THE WEEK
In 2013, the Big Ten office has named Alina Weinstein Big Ten Gymnast of the Week a total of three times. Thus, the senior became the first Illini to secure three Big Ten Gymnast of the Week awards in the same season and just the second to capture four in her career, alongside 2011 alum Allison Buckley. Weinstein was also the first Illini gymnast to win the award in consecutive weeks, accomplishing the feat on Feb. 11 and then on Feb. 18. Her third weekly honor came after the last meet of the regular season in which Weinstein scored a perfect 10 on vault and pushed the all-around record to 39.625.
LEAVING IT ALL ON THE FLOOR
On Senior Day on March 10, the Illini posted a season high on floor and the fourth highest team score in school history in the event with a 49.425. Jordan Naleway (9.800), Tori Fujinami (9.800), Giana O'Connor (9.850), Heather Foley (9.850), Amber See (9.950) and Alina Weinstein (9.975) all contributed to the team total. Also, the Orange and Blue are fresh off of a 49.325 floor performance at the Big Ten Championships.
Amber See set a new career high when she tied the second highest score in Illinois history on floor with a 9.950. See is now one of eight Illinois gymnasts to achieve such a score. See once again accomplished the feat at Big Ten's when she tied for second along with Weinstein. Furthermore, the junior achieved her first floor title of the season at Missouri on March 8 when she scored a 9.925.
Alina Weinstein has accomplished a tremendous year on floor. The senior broke the Illinois floor record on Feb. 16 when she accomplished a 9.975, and tied the mark again on Senior Day. At the last meet of the regular season, aka the State of Illinois Classic, the senior captured her seventh floor title of 2013.
ALL-AROUND TRIPLE THREAT
The month of March witnessed the emergence of an Illinois triple threat in the all-around competition. The ever diligent Alina Weinstein continues to pave the way and lead by example. The senior has scored at least a 39.325 in seven of the previous eight meets. Next, Giana O'Connor has been a consistent all-arounder this year but really broke out the weekend of March 8 when the freshman tallied a new career high of 39.275 not once but twice. In addition, O'Connor has scored above a 39 in the last six meets. Last but not least is junior Amber See, who has been in and out of the all-around competition this year. If called upon, See has shown the ability to score a 39.325, a new career high she set on Senior Day on March 10.
After sweeping all the events at the State of Illinois Classic, Alina Weinstein now has 23 titles in 2013. That season total puts the New Jersey native in third place on the Illinois single season event titles list behind Nancy Thies' 24 in 1977 and 34 in `76. In addition, her 40 career titles puts the senior in sole possession of fourth place on the all-time Illinois title list. Weinstein is just one title shy of tying fellow Illini perfect 10 member Cara Pomeroy (2004-07) for third place. The top two spots belong to Nancy Thies with 58 titles and Allison Buckley with 62.
Though she may be a sophomore, 2013 marks the first year of competition for Sunny Kato, who experienced a season ending injury a year ago. The California native has been instrumental for the Illini on bars and beam. Kato earned her first collegiate title at Michigan on Jan. 19, when she tied for first on beam with a 9.825. Next, in front of 2,316 fans at Gym Jam on Feb. 16, Kato set a career high 9.900 on bars and walked away with her first title in the event. One week later at Ohio State, Kato set a new career high on beam with a 9.900 as well. Then during the double meet weekend on March 8 & 10, Kato continued to shine earning another title on beam and bars while tying her career highs on both. Thus, her four overall titles stands as the second most on the team.
Giana O'Connor has impressed many along the way in her freshman campaign. O'Connor has competed in the all-around in all 12 meets this season, scoring at least a 39.1 in the last five of six. On Feb. 1 vs. Nebraska, O'Connor's 39.050 edged out teammate and Illinois all-around record holder Alina Weinstein for the first time and earned the Streamwood, Ill. native Big Ten Freshman of the Week. On the double meet weekend on March 8 & 10, O'Connor not only achieved a new career high in the all-around but also did it twice, scoring a 39.275 both times. As a result, O'Connor garnered her second Big Ten Freshman of the Week award. Therefore, she joins teammate Amber See as the only Illini to capture the freshman award twice in a season. O'Connor will enter Regionals fresh off of a career high 9.9 on floor. She has also set career highs of 9.85 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.85 on beam.
NALE-ING THE ROUTINE
Jordan Naleway provided three solid scores for the Illini at the Big Ten Championships, recording her best meet to date. The sophomore started off by sticking her bars routine and recorded a new career high of 9.800. Next, Naleway moved to beam where she achieved yet another career high of 9.825. The performance was just the second beam routine by Naleway in her collegiate career. Naleway finished the day on floor where her 9.775 came close to tying her career high of 9.800.
Look for Elizabeth McNabb to contribute on beam this weekend. The junior has scored above a 9.8 in four of the past six meets. In fact, McNabb has tied her career high of 9.85 twice in that span, including at the Big Ten Championships where her beam score led the team.
FINDING THE MARK
The Orange and Blue have not dropped below a 195.7 in their previous five meets, a stretch that saw the squad post two totals of 196.3 and a new season high of 196.475. Thus, Illinois has eclipsed the 196 mark five times this year, besting the 2011 NCAA Championships qualifying squad, who hit the 196 or above score three times. In the past five years, the 2010 team did it best, achieving the feat an impressive six times, a mark the Illini can tie this weekend at the Morgantown Regional.
Live scoring of the Morgantown Regional will be available on fightingillini.com and wvusports.com as well as two live video feeds in which one will split vault and floor and the other split beam and bars. Tickets are $12 each when purchased in advance online at WVUGAME.com or by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office at 1-800-WVU-GAME. Groups of 10 or more can receive a special group rate of $9 per person in advance as well. Finally, tickets will be sold at the door for $15 each on the day of the meet as parking at the WVU Coliseum will be free.
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