Illinois struggles to keep balance

An uncharacteristic number of falls plagued the Illinois women’s gymnastics team on Friday night, breaking a string of recent solid performances when it took third in a five-team meet at Kentucky.

“We thought that we didn’t need to try anymore. We really needed a meet that wasn’t as well as the ot…An uncharacteristic number of falls plagued the Illinois women’s gymnastics team on Friday night, breaking a string of recent solid performances when it took third in a five-team meet at Kentucky.

“We thought that we didn’t need to try anymore. We really needed a meet that wasn’t as well as the others so that we would remember to push ourselves,” junior Sarah Schmidt said. “Now we know that we have to get our focus back.”

The No. 15 Illini had their season-low score of 194.200, finishing behind Kentucky (195.250) and North Carolina (194.825) and ahead of Ball State (193.350) and William & Mary (188.750). None of the teams they competed against were nationally ranked.

Illinois had solid performances on the uneven bars, floor and vault. However, it was the Illini’s beam performances that hurt them. Freshman Kelsey Joannides, senior Julie Crall and sophomore Allison Buckley had back-to-back-to-back falls on the beam, contributing to the team’s season-low score in 47.650 on the event. Just last week, the team tied the school record in the beam and was ranked 10th in the nation on the event.

“I would go to say that we are a beam team and that beam is our best event,” head coach Bob Starkell said. “However, just everybody fell this weekend. Kelsey, Julie and Allison, they are all what I would call ‘beamers,’ meaning that beam is their speciality. But they all just kind of rubbed off on each other to have an off night.”

Junior Nicole Cowart was the best performer for the Illini, placing second in the all-around with a 39.150 and taking third in the beam, tying her career high of 9.825.

“I tried to step it up for the team, but some nights just are off nights,” Cowart said.

Starkell credited the team’s poor performance to a busy schedule and getting burnt out after having five straight meets on the road.

He believes that having four full practices this week and competing in Huff Hall again this weekend will help the team regain its focus and that they will do better because “the girls are more vulnerable now.”

Starkell also said that Friday was a different meet because a lot of changes were made to different routines. Senior Marijka Botterman introduced a new floor routine where she scored her personal best, while Schmidt had a different vault routine where she did not hit her passes. Starkell said that a few more routines will change for next week, so they are at “championship complexity.”

Illinois hosts Illinois-Chicago next Saturday at Huff Hall in a double-dual meet with the men who also host UIC. Seniors from both teams will be honored in the last home regular season meet of the season.