The Fighting Illini have now been ranked in the top-25 coaches' preseason poll for the seventh consecutive year.
Dec. 12, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Fresh off tying its best finish in program history (No. 11 final ranking), the Fighting Illini women's gymnastics team will begin 2014 ranked No. 16 in the country in the Troester GymInfo Coaches' Preseason Poll. The Orange and Blue have now landed in the Top-25 preseason poll for the seventh straight year. Also, the Big Ten office announced its Gymnasts to Watch list on Thursday with Illini sophomore Giana O'Connor and senior Amber See making the cut.
"It is always a nice recognition to be ranked in the top-25," Illinois head coach Kim Landrus said. "For it to happen seven years in a row says a lot about the level of gymnastics our team performs at on a consistent basis. We look forward to the start of the season and continuing the tradition and level of success of Illinois Gymnastics."
The defending national champion, the University of Florida, retained the top spot after receiving 21 first-place votes. 2012 champion Alabama followed in the two-spot with 2013 runner-up Oklahoma in third. Super Six competitors UCLA and LSU rounded out the four and five spots, respectively.
Counting Illinois, six Big Ten schools once again earned a spot in the Top-25 preseason poll. Michigan checked in with the highest ranking of the group at No. 7 and was named the favorite to win the Big Ten by the conference office. Nebraska, which will be searching for its third straight Big Ten title, was ranked 10th. Rounding out the list was Minnesota at No. 14, Penn State at No. 15 and Ohio State at No. 19. In all, the Illini are slated to compete against eight teams that were either ranked or received votes in 2014.
At the conclusion of the regular season in 2013, Illinois had eclipsed the 196 mark six times, tying the 2010 team, which had previously achieved the feat the most. Furthermore, Illinois had a final RQS over 49 in three-of-four events, with all three ranking in the top-20: 20th on bars (49.085), 13th on balance beam (49.125) and 13th on floor (49.235). Top-50 ranked returning gymnasts include See (20th on floor), O'Connor (37th in all-around) and junior Sunny Kato (42nd on bars), who all were second team All-Big Ten honorees last season.
"Giana O’Connor and Amber See were staples in our line-up in 2013," Landrus said. "As a freshmen, Giana competed in all-around every meet and I fully anticipate for her to pick up where she left off. With a year of experience under her belt, Giana will have a great impact on our success both in the Big Ten and nationally."
"Being a senior, I am confident that Amber will strive to make this year her best year yet. She has a unique vault and a floor routine that is filled with a high level of difficulty. Her steadiness on beam, along with being a staple in the bar line up this season, will make her a four event gymnast and a leader both on and off the competition floor."
The 16th ranked Illini will officially kick-off their season in East Lansing vs. Michigan State on Jan. 10. Illinois' home opener at Huff Hall is slated for Jan. 18 in a tri-meet with Centenary and Wisconsin Eau Claire.
BIG TEN WOMEN'S GYMNASTS TO WATCH LIST
Giana O'Connor, So., Illinois
Amber See, Sr., Illinois
Alie Glover, So., Iowa
Sydney Hoerr, Jr., Iowa
Joanna Sampson, Sr., Michigan
Austin Sheppard, So., Michigan
Alina Cartwright, Jr. Michigan State
Elena Lagoski, Fr., Michigan State
Lindsay Mable, So., Minnesota
Dusti Russell, Sr., Minnesota
Jessie DeZiel, Jr., Nebraska
Emily Wong, Sr., Nebraska
Sarah Miller, Sr., Ohio State
Melanie Shaffer, Sr., Ohio State
Samantha Musto, So., Penn State
Krystal Welsh, Jr., Penn State