No. 22 Illinois women’s gymnastics opens season with win at Nebraska

Mia+Takekawa+poses+during+a+meet+against+Central+Michigan+on+March+1.+

The Daily Illini File Photo

Mia Takekawa poses during a meet against Central Michigan on March 1.

By Jonah Perez, Staff Writer

No. 22 Illinois went to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a matchup against No. 20 Nebraska and came away with a win, as the team won 195.475 to 193.400.

Nebraska is a perennial contender for the Big Ten Championship, winning two regular season championships and two Big Ten tournament championships since they first started competing in the Big Ten in 2012. Illinois avenged their Big Five meet loss from last year, which shows tremendous growth.

“Our team chemistry was amazing; they were totally united and that really set the tone for us,” said head coach Nadalie Walsh. “I’m really proud of them and I think they did a great job, they essentially kind of captivated the whole arena. They walked in with confidence, and they did what they could do and they did it well and the results are speaking for themselves.”

The team won three out of the four events, winning bars 48.975-48.800, beam 48.775-48.025 and floor 49.025-47.775.

The only loss was on vault, which Nebraska barely won, edging Illinois 48.800 to 48.700.

Individually, the Illini had three event winners. Sophomore Lexi Powe won with a score of 9.825 on vault, freshman Kaitlyn Ewald won with a score of 9.900 on bars and junior Shaylah Scott won with a score of 9.875 on floor.

The only event Illinois individually fell short on was beam, as Nebraska junior Kynsee Roby won with a score of 9.875. The Illini’s highest score on the event was a 9.825 by sophomore Mia Townes.

Three freshmen debuted for Illinois, as Ewald, Amelia Knight and Abby Mueller all competed in multiple events. Ewald had the surprise of the night with her exceptional 9.900 on bars.

“She (Ewald) did an incredible job. … She actually had to do her routine twice because the bars malfunctioned during her first bar routine so to be a freshman and to have that happen and then have to wait from being second in the lineup and having to wait to do her routine all over in the sixth spot,” Walsh said. “ She just did an incredible job.”

During the preseason senior Nicole Biondi and sophomore Mia Takekawa were selected by the conference coaches as gymnasts to watch this season.

Takekawa competed in three events, and she scored a 9.775 on vault, which was fourth out of eleven overall and third out of six amongst her teammates. She also scored a 9.800 on beam, which was third out of twelve overall and second out of six in comparison to her teammates, and 9.800 on bars, which was third out of twelve overall and third out of six when compared to other Illini.

Biondi competed in one event, scoring a 9.725 on bars, which was seventh out of twelve overall and fourth out of six on Illinois.

“Just continue to be extremely grateful for every moment and every opportunity. When we go back into practice, zero in on the little details that we want to adjust,” Walsh said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel next weekend, we just need the rest of our lineup to be healthy and to go back out there and do the same thing we did today, just better.”

Illinois travels to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on Rutgers Jan. 23 in the team’s next meet.

@jonahap2

[email protected]