Illinois women’s gymnastics fails to break Michigan’s winning streak

The streak lives on.

In Illinois’ case, however, that isn’t a good thing.

The No. 11 Illinois women’s gymnastics team traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Sunday to take on conference rival No. 4 Michigan. The Illini entered the meet with hopes of ending their losing streak to the Wolverines, but the Illini’s 196.850-195.475 dual-meet loss kept that losing streak at 29 years and counting.

At the start, though, it appeared Illinois had a good chance of topping Michigan.

With Giana O’Connor’s 9.850 leading the way, Illinois earned a 49.000 on the uneven bars. O’Connor’s score was one of three that were a 9.800 or higher for the Illini. In fact, the lowest score they counted on the apparatus was a 9.775.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

“We started extremely strong,” head coach Kim Landrus said. “We had a lot of stuck dismounts. The girls — the entire bar lineup — definitely did a nice job building off of each other and just really doing what they do in practice.”

By the time both teams completed their first rotation, Illinois trailed by just 0.125, but that was the closest the meet would get, The deficit only grew from there, and bars ended up being the lone event Illinois would score a 49 on.

The Illini moved on to vault, where they earned only two scores at a 9.800 or higher: O’Connor’s 9.875 and sophomore Erin Buchanan’s 9.825. Another sophomore, Suren Kanchanavaleerat, made her Illini debut on vault, but she scored a 9.225 that did not count toward the 48.775 event total.

To make things worse, Illinois had just one score above a 9.800 on floor. O’Connor continued to succeed by posting a 9.850. Juniors Heather Foley and Jordan Naleway scored 9.725 and 9.775, respectively, while sophomores Buchanan and Mary Jane Horth both earned a 9.700, the lowest floor scores for the competition.

“We are a much better floor team than we displayed today,” Landrus said. “So the little things are really going to add up, and if you give the judges an opportunity, if you give the judges reason to deduct, they’re going to deduct. We can’t give away little tenths on silly things that we know that we know how to perform well.”

There was at least one positive for the Illini, though. They didn’t have any spectacular scores, but the 9.825s from Buchanan and senior Sunny Kato were enough for the team to earn a season-high 48.950 on the balance beam to end the competition.

“I’m really proud of them, that they came into beam . . . just doing our beam routine how they practice and to try to minimize the little things,” Landrus said. “And they went out, and they really fought, and I’m just proud that they were able to finish the meet on a strong note.”

The Illini aren’t panicking, though.

“It’s early in the season,” Landrus said. “We got to use it as a valuable lesson, and we have to learn from mistakes we made today, move forward and make sure we correct those.”

Ashley can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @wijangco12.