Illini seniors to take floor for last home meet

Saturday, senior Brian Liscovitz will take to the floor for his last home meet as an Illinois gymnast.

“I never thought this day would come,” Liscovitz said. “I’m looking forward to it, but not looking forward to it.”

Emotions will be running high as the All-American and team captain closes the book on his Illini career with four other seniors. But with several lofty goals left unaccomplished, there is still work to be done.

“Once the meet starts, it’s got to be straight business,” Liscovitz said.

No. 3 Illinois hosts No. 11 UIC this weekend in the last dual meet of the season and with the Big Ten and NCAA Championships right around the corner, the team is running out of time to tune up their routines.

“You’re always going to have some crazy random mistakes in this sport, but there’s been some consistent mistakes going on for some of these guys the last couple meets,” associate head coach Justin Spring said. “I know they’re trying to get those ironed out and fixed up and making sure they’re as ready as they can be going in Big Tens and NCAAs.”

With their sights set on bringing home titles this postseason, the Illini still have yet to find the marquis meet they think they’re capable of. Even with a full lineup in place for the first time against rival Michigan last weekend, the team still left the coaches wanting by flashing potential for a huge score but losing a close decision.

Saturday’s matchup with the Flames will mark the third time the teams have competed this season, with the Illini winning by scores of 353.750-328.750 and 351.300-337.200. The weaker opposition means the team won’t have to worry as much about winning as improving.

“I don’t think we’re putting as much of an emphasis on team score this week as fixing some of the problems as a team,” Spring said.

The lineup should be close to full strength again, even with Spring getting all the seniors into the action, and the gymnasts still have their sights set high.

“As a team, it would be really nice if we could put up our season high and maybe the highest score in the country,” senior Luke Stannard said.

Seniors Liscovitz, Stannard, Andres Saavedra, Kyle Padera and Tyler Williamson will all find their way into the lineup against UIC for the final time. The last member of their class, Chad Wiest, was recently granted an extra year from the NCAA after missing the 2009 season with injury.

While the fanfare and recognition for the seniors will take center stage, the small adjustments they make will carry more importance for the Illini.

“I think right now we’re mentally focusing on Big Tens and NCAAs even though we have this one meet ahead of us,” Stannard said. “I think we’re really gearing our mental edge for those meets. It’s just kind of getting our bodies in tunes with our minds, we’re just becoming more like machines every day.”