UIC tops Illinois in women’s gymnastics

A slow start on the road proved to be too much for the Illinois women’s gymnastics team to overcome Saturday.

The No. 18 Illini hit just two of six routines on the uneven bars, making it look as if the meet against the University of Illinois at Chicago could become a struggle.

Sophomore Amber See led off the event but fell, lowering her score to 9.050. A few routines later, junior Alina Weinstein also fell hard in the middle of the routine, earning a 9.175. The Illini’s total at the end of the rotation was 46.850.

“The start that we had is absolutely inexcusable,” Illinois head coach Kim Landrus said. “We hit two routines, and we are a good bar team. We clearly weren’t mentally in it when we got on the bars today, and we’ve got to be on it every day.”

Weinstein’s fall shook her up, and Landrus decided it would be better to keep her out for the remainder of the meet. Because of Weinstein’s status as an all-around competitor, Illinois had to replace her for the three remaining events.

“We wanted to be rather safe than sorry, and she was a little shaken up by it,” senior Hannah Welker said. “Some girls really stepped up, especially on vault, floor and beam. … They practice hard, and they were able to put it together tonight when it counted.”

Freshman Kelsi Eberly stepped up after Weinstein was pulled, scoring a career-high 9.8 on the floor exercise.

After the rough start on the uneven bars, the Orange and Blue gathered at the end of the vault runway for a pep talk from senior Kelsey Joannides.

“When we went to vault, we were at the end of the runway before warmups and I asked them what motivated them,” Joannides said. “We need something to pump us up coming off of bars and you have to find it in yourself and dig deep and figure out what motivates you.”

Joannides took home three event titles, earning the top spot on the balance beam with a 9.875, and on the floor exercise by tying her career-high score of 9.9. She took first in the all-around, matching her career high of 39.375. Joannides has now earned 13 individual event titles this season.

“There were individual successes and Kelsey (Joannides) did a great job,” Landrus said. “There were several other highlights of the meet, but we need to hit 24 routines at this point in the season.”

Illinois had solid performances on the other three events. The Illini scored a 48.900 on the vault, where See took the event title with a career high of 9.925 that ties the second-best score in school history. They earned a 49.175 on the floor exercise and a season-high score of 49.050 on balance beam.

“Kim told us at the end of the night, you know, bars were obviously a disappointment, but we came back so strong on all the other events,” Welker said. “It shows that we can come back fighting.

“There were so many great things tonight and there were some disappointments, but overall I think we learned from our mistakes and we learn from strengths and weaknesses every weekend. There were a lot of things that happened to certain girls that could really boost their confidence, and I think as a team that’s going to help us down the road.”