Illini travel to Iowa City for rematch against Hawkeyes

Junior+Shaylah+Scott+competes+during+the+meet+against+Michigan+on+Feb.+21.+The+Illini+will+face+Iowa+today.

Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Junior Shaylah Scott competes during the meet against Michigan on Feb. 21. The Illini will face Iowa today.

By Jonah Perez, Staff Writer

With two weeks left before the Big Ten Championships, No. 15 Illinois travels to Iowa City for a rematch against No. 17 Iowa.

“Our mindset is we just want to continue to keep improving. … With having already seen Iowa, we know what their strengths are,” said head coach Nadalie Walsh. “We know what our strengths are, and we don’t really have defense in gymnastics, so I think it will actually be easier to go into the arena with somebody we’ve already seen because we can be more focused on ourselves. … We just need to make sure that we are on top of our game. … We’re pretty matched up well.”

Last time out, Illinois placed second at the Big Five to No. 5 Minnesota with a score of 196.600. It was the team’s second-highest score of the season, but their performance was overshadowed by Minnesota senior Lexy Ramler, who won every event title, including the all-around title.

Walsh doesn’t doubt senior Nicole Biondi and sophomore Mia Takekawa could pull off the same feat, whether it be now for Biondi or in the near future for Takekawa.

Last time out for Iowa, it won the other Big Five meet with a score of 196.100.

Last time the women’s team competed against the Hawkeyes, they lost their first meet of the season, 196.325-195.600.

It was a loss where multiple personal records were tied and broken, alongside three individual event titles. There was also not enough consistency to win enough of the overall titles and, ultimately, the meet.

Junior Mallory Mizuki thinks the Illini have their goals set on improving scores, whether they win or lose. This matchup isn’t about revenge or anything. At this point in the season, it’s all about the national qualifying score.

The NQS is used to determine the placement for each team’s regional competition. It was also created to not punish teams for early-season struggles.

In the South Central Region, the Illini are fourth, according to their NQS score of 196.406, behind only No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 7 Arizona State and No. 8 Arkansas.

While they always want to win, Walsh is always encouraged by each of their performances, even in a loss. Most of the Illini’s losses have come on days where they broke season-high team records.

Each of them shows just how small the margins are between winning and losing. It’s better to know how close they are to winning the conference championship rather than getting caught up in wins and losses.

Practice this week was focused on refining the small details, as they ultimately prepare for the conference tournament.

“We’re continuing to prepare athletes that are still putting the routines together and getting more consistent just in case we need to swap somebody out,” Walsh said. “Like last weekend, we didn’t have Arayah (Simons). We did not have Amelia Knight. We were able to put Tessa Phillips right in on floor, and we had Kaitlyn Ewald as a backup.

“So, I think we’re just continuing to improve on our depths and then the focus for improvement, getting cleaner and tighter and more consistent. The more consistent we get in the small details, the greater team score we’ll continue to have.”

 

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