Senior Kelsey Joannides and the No. 15 Illini will face five consecutive preseason ranked opponents to begin the year.
Dec. 1, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois women's gymnastics team will begin the 2012 season ranked 15th in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, marking the fifth-consecutive time and sixth overall that the Illini have been in the nation's top 25 heading into a season. Last season, the Illini started the year tabbed 17th while their highest-ever ranking (No. 13) came in 2010. They checked in at 16th in 2009, 23rd in 2008 and 25th back in 1999 to begin the season.
In 2011, Illinois earned its highest final national ranking in school history, as the Illini wrapped up the year ranked No. 11 following their second-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships. The Orange and Blue matched their highest regional finish ever, tying for second at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, and placed third at the Big Ten Championships, reaching the podium for the fourth time in five years. Individually, six Illini garnered All-America honors, marking the most accolades in a single season in school history. The Illini also broke the school record for team score and balance beam during the 2011 season.
UCLA, the national runner-up a year ago, was voted as the No. 1 team in the nation with 932 total points and eight first-place votes. Alabama, the defending national champion, received 17 first-place votes and was tabbed No. 2 with 926 points. The rest of the top five included No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Utah. Six other Big Ten schools appeared in the top 25, led by Nebraska at No. 6 followed by No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State, No. 18 Ohio State, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 25 Iowa. Michigan State received votes in the poll and sits just outside the top 25.
A total of seven opponents on Illinois' schedule are ranked in the preseason top 25, as the Illini will start the season by facing preseason ranked foes at the first five meets. That stretch is capped off by a quadrangular meet at Navy Pier on Feb. 10, which includes the top-ranked Bruins, No. 14 Boise State and Missouri.
The Illini host their annual Mixed Pairs Exhibition on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. alongside the Illini men's team at Huff Hall. Regular season competition begins on Saturday, Jan. 14 in Champaign against No. 22 Minnesota.