Local Sports Briefs

Women’s gymnastics picked 2nd in Big Ten preseason poll

The No. 13 Illini were picked second by conference coaches in the Big Ten preseason women’s gymnastics poll. Last year, Illinois finished second at the Big Ten Championships, as it set a school record with a score of 196.75. The team sits behind Penn State in the poll. Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa, respectively, followed behind Illinois.

Each coach also selected two of their gymnasts to form a 14-member Gymnasts to Watch List. The Illinois representatives are Melissa Fernandez and Allison Buckley.

The Illini are coming off their best season in program history, as they made their first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships and finished at No. 12 in the final national rankings last season. This season they are ranked No. 13 nationally and return 19 of 24 routines.

Baseball announces schedule

Head coach Dan Hartleb announced the Illinois baseball team’s schedule for the 2010 season on Tuesday. The schedule has the Illini facing six 2009 NCAA Tournament teams — East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Missouri, Dartmouth, Indiana and Ohio Sate — over the course of the season.

“We feel like we’ve put together a schedule that will challenge us and give us an opportunity to prove ourselves against some of the top teams in the country at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, the LeClair Invitational Tournament and the Caravelle Resort Classic,” Hartleb said in a press release. “Playing tough opponents early in the season will prepare us for the rigorous Big Ten schedule. We’ve also added a number of home-and-home series with in-state schools for the 2010 season, which has helped us improve our mid-week schedule.”

The Illini open the season with two home games against Bradley on Feb. 20 and 21. The next week, Illinois heads south to Clearwater, Fla. and St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, where it will match up against Notre Dame, South Florida and St. John’s, three of the Big East’s top five teams last year.

Illinois opens Big Ten play against Penn State at home April 2-4 before taking a trip to St. Louis to face Missouri at Busch Stadium.

After the Nittany Lions, the Illini play Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana in conference play, in that order. Illinois does not face Minnesota in conference play this season.

From Daily Illini staff reports