Illini look to bounce back against Nittany Lions


Mark Capapas

Sophomore Mia Takekawa competes in the vault event during the meet against Iowa on Jan. 31. The Illini are set to face off against Penn State tomorrow in University Park, Pennsylvania.

By Jonah Perez, Staff Writer

This week No. 20 Illinois travels to No. 31 Penn State, as the Illini look to extend their impressive 4-1 road record. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions look for their first home win of the season.

“Even though we got our high score last week but didn’t come home with the win, we’ve felt even more focused and determined this week in practice, because we knew we could have done just that much better to take home the win,” said sophomore Olivia O’Donnell. “I think that this week we really focused on just hitting our routines and making those improvements that would help us score better.”

Last time out Illinois came in second in a tri-meet against No. 17 Michigan State and No. 26 Ohio State. Ohio State had 196.375, Illinois had 196.075 and Michigan State had 194.500.

In its last match, Penn State beat No. 28 Maryland 196.000-194.950.

Head coach Nadalie Walsh highlighted how this week they have a short turnaround, as the team only has three days of practice this week. They will have two matches within a week, as the upcoming match is on a Saturday, and last week’s match was on a Sunday.

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“Even though we had our highest team score, we know that our potential was not met yet, so that’s part of the dig deeper because we have small mistakes that each athlete knows that they can do better,” Walsh said. “They just need to maybe be a little bit more calm and sure of themselves when it’s the actual routine they’re saluting for in the competition.”

The Illini have made use of this limited time by focusing on the fine details, including tightening their routines and not forgetting to breathe.Tightening a routine has to do with your core and legs being on point so a gymnast’s body awareness is good.

Breathing during a routine has to do with avoiding fatigue and maintaining fluid and smooth motion, as gymnasts don’t want their breathing to be too tense or intense.

“Each week we have been improving our teams score and going up each week, and I feel like last week hitting our season best just gave us a boost of confidence for this upcoming week at Penn State,” O’Donnell said. “We are ready to attack it and just have a great meet.”

They’re excited to showcase their skills and continue to have fun. Gymnastics is what this close-knit group loves to do, and they don’t take any meet for granted anymore because of how last season ended.

The Illini are always confident, and having a deep team helps with it. They can turn to multiple gymnasts for multiple events, and not many teams can do that.

The Illini have a 2-1 record against Penn State under Walsh, though last season the Illini fell 195.725-195.425.

Last time they were on the road at Penn State, during Walsh’s first season in 2017-2018, the Illini won 195.750-195.425.

“It’s apparently going to be like a throwback meet, and their colors are red or pink and black from the original Penn State, so it’ll be just a different kind of atmosphere,” Walsh said.



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