Women’s gymnastics defeats No. 14 Missouri on Senior Day

With emotions riding high, the Fighting Illini picked the right time to stay cool.

No. 13 Illinois defeated No. 14 Missouri, 196.200-195.500, in the matchup of border state rivals Saturday at Huff Hall. More than 1,500 fans in attendance on Senior Day watched the Illini score at least a 49.000 on all four events for the first time this season.

“There are always some emotional feelings on the last day,” head coach Bob Starkell said.

“You’re competing at your last home event, and the seniors start feeling emotional. You try to tell them to relax and remind them they still have a couple weekends to go. I try not to even bring up Senior Day, but overall the energy was good (on Saturday).”

Illinois bested its season average on all four events while posting at least 196.000 for the fifth time this season. The Illini won the battle on the beam with a score of 49.00, and on the floor, posting a 49.075. The team also tied with Missouri on the vault with a 49.075.

Junior Melissa Fernandez garnered a share of the bars title, matching her personal best score of 9.925, and teammate junior Allison Buckley captured the floor title tallying a 9.900. The win moved Buckley into a tie for third place on the career event titles list in Illinois history, but Buckley was more impressed with teammate senior Sarah Schmidt.

“It’s an exciting feat and a pretty cool place to be on the list,” Buckley said.

“Sarah, she had an amazing day, especially being the emotional day it is. And as we move forward towards postseason, she is peaking at the right time. She’s someone we need to be performing the way she is for us to do well looking ahead at regionals and beyond.”

Schmidt notched a personal-best score in the all-around posting a 39.425 in what was her final home meet. The score was good for second on the night, while fellow senior Nicole Cowart finished fifth with a score of 39.075. Fernandez pitched in with a 39.300 in the all-around, finishing third. Schmidt’s effort was the fourth-best score in school history, giving her three of the top eight marks on the list.

“I just wanted to come in and do well in my last meet at Huff Hall,” Schmidt said. “I wanted to leave on a good note. And we did well all the way to the end. It was just an exciting meet with Missouri, our rivals, and the crowd was big, and it was fun competing next to the guys. Everything just made it a great atmosphere and helped with out the energy.”