No. 15 Illinois defeats Minnesota
Illini records highest season-opening score in program history
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- No. 15 Illinois started the year off with a bang, tallying the highest season-opening score in program history and defeating No. 22 Minnesota 194.725-192.800 on Saturday at Huff Hall. The Orange and Blue, who did not count a fall and won their first opener since 2005, held the advantage on their final three events and earned individual titles on bars and floor. The Illini exceeded the Gophers 48.750-47.400 on bars, 48.900-48.225 on beam and 48.775-48.550 on floor in their first season opener at home since 2001.
"It was a good start for us," head coach Kim Landrus said. "We talk about the process and not the goal, and today gave us a good starting point for that. Starting the year without a fall was key for the team's confidence, but we have to get back into the gym and see how we can improve."
The previous best season-opening score occurred at the home opener in 2001, where the Illini turned in a 194.650. Saturday's score marked just the second time Illinois has recorded over a 194 in the first meet of the year.
In the season's first event, Illinois totaled a 48.300 on vault and were led by a 9.775 from senior Kelsey Joannides, who tied for the runner-up spot. Junior Elise Gill set a personal best with a 9.750 to place fourth, and junior Alina Weinstein came in fifth with a 9.725. Sophomore Elizabeth McNabb competed in the lineup for the first time as an Illini and counted a 9.550 while junior Jaclyn Kantecki rounded out the scoring with a 9.500.
The Illini then swept the first five places on uneven bars, highlighted by a three-way tie for first between juniors Macy Hyatt and Kantecki and sophomore Sarah Fiedler with a 9.775. The event title was the third career for Kantecki and first ever for Hyatt and Fiedler. Senior Hannah Welker posted a career-high 9.750 and finished fourth followed by Weinstein tied for fifth with a 9.675.
On balance beam, the Orange and Blue garnered their highest event score of the evening with a 48.900 thanks to three scores of 9.800 or higher. Joannides and Weinstein tied for second with a 9.825 while sophomore Amber See was fourth at 9.800. Fiedler equaled a career high with a 9.725 and freshman Kelsi Eberly made her Illini debut with the same score. McNabb also competed for the first time in her career on beam and recorded a 9.675.
"The key with beam is competing confidently," Landrus said. "They have been practicing confidently and transferred that to the competition, which is exactly what true competitors do."
To close out the night, See notched the highest Illini score of the meet with a 9.850 to win her second career floor title. Gill made the floor lineup for the first time and did not disappoint, contributing a 9.825 to tie for second with Joannides. Fiedler (9.675) and Eberly (9.600) also made their first appearances in the floor lineup and counted their routines.
"I can't say enough about Elise," Landrus said. "She did a phenomenal job on vault and floor after cracking both lineups. Amber also delivered a solid leadoff on beam and gave us a great anchor on floor."