Fernandez fifth on balance beam
For photos from Sunday's Illinois softball doubleheader against No. 2 Michigan, click here.
CLEVELAND — Melissa Fernandez saved her best for her final routine as an Illini.
The Illinois senior scored a 9.8375 on a near-flawless routine on the balance beam to tie for fifth place at the NCAA Championships.
"Today went really well on beam, and the entire experience was a lot of fun," Fernandez said. "The atmosphere is amazing at nationals, and it was phenomenal to be a part of that. It was my last time competing for Illinois, so I just tried to enjoy every moment of it. This was a great way to end my career, and I am extremely happy with how it turned out."
It was the second podium finish — and highest ever by an Illini at nationals — for the three-time All-American. Fernandez finished fifth in Friday's all-around. She also tied for seventh on the beam in 2009 at nationals.
"Melissa has had a phenomenal career at Illinois," interim Illini coach Kim Landrus said. "It was a great way for her to end it by making the beam final and reaching the podium again. I tell her just to have fun every time she competes, and she did just that today."
Illinois finished the season with its highest national ranking, ending No. 11.
"I am so proud of the way we competed this year, and I couldn't have asked for much more," Landrus said.
In men's golf:
At Urbana. Illinois lost the Illini Spring Classic on Sunday, falling by 10 strokes to Akron.
But the Illini outpaced the nine Big Ten teams, earning a boost heading into the league meet, which will be held April 29-30 in West Lafayette, Ind.
"Today the course was there for the taking, but obviously we didn't get that done," Illini coach Mike Small said. "We played better in the fall and early spring than we are now, but we'll get things straightened out next week and for the Big Ten Championship."
The unheralded Zips — 0-17 against teams in the Top 50 of Golfweek's computer rankings this season — shot a 1 over on Sunday to earn the win in the 14-team field.
Illini redshirt freshman Jonathan Hauter, playing in his third collegiate event, shot a 1-under 71 and finished in a tie for third at 2 over for the tournament.
"Jonathan has worked hard over the last year and a half," Small said. "I think he's going to have a great career if he keeps maintains the rate he's going."
Luke Guthrie and Mason Jacobs tied for seventh.
In women's golf:
At Columbus, Ohio. Samantha Sloan tied for 13th, leading Illinois to a seventh-place finish at the regular season-ending Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational.
Katelin Dilger tied for 17th for the Illini, who were 4 strokes out of fifth place at the 12-team event.
Illinois next competes at the Big Ten meet Friday-Sunday in Glencoe.
In men's tennis:
UI 5, Michigan State 2. No. 11 Dennis Nevolo, No. 72 Abe Souza and No. 119 Johnny Hamui won in straight sets after the 17th-ranked Illini dropped the doubles point in East Lansing, Mich.
Roy Kalmanovich and KU Singh won in three sets for the Illini.
"I'm really pleased with the guys overall for the weekend," Illini coach Brad Dancer said. "They battled their tails off on the road which isn't always easy to do."
In women's tennis:
UI 6, Michigan State 1. Illinois wrapped up its home season in fashion, cruising to a victory in Urbana.
In their final home matches, Leigh Finnegan and Annie McCarthy won in straight sets, and No. 110 Rachael White, Allison Falkin and No. 125 Breanne Smutko picked up singles victories to knock off the Spartans.
"Outstanding jobs today against a tough Michigan State team, and to win 6-1 against them is a very good accomplishment," Illini coach Michelle Dasso said. "It shows the depth of our program and the confidence that we as a coaching staff have in our two seniors."
Michigan 8-9, UI 6-7. Illinois twice dug deep holes and simply couldn't climb out, getting swept by the second-ranked Wolverines on Sunday at Eichelberger Field.
The Illini trailed 8-2 in the opener before scoring four runs in the sixth. Michigan's Jordan Taylor struck out the side in the seventh after Illinois closed within 8-6.
Danielle Zymkowitz was 4 for 4 and Jessica Davis hit a two-run homer for the Illini.
"We had some hitters step up and do some really big things against this tremendous pitching staff," Illini coach Terri Sullivan said. "I think that speaks well for our offense. However, we need to give Michigan all the credit because, in the end, they hung in there."
In Game 2, the Illini trailed 5-0 after one inning and 8-3 after two.
Hollie Pinchback hit a solo home run in the seven inning to cut Michigan's lead to two.
Jackie Guy came on in relief in both games, pitching 11 innings and allowing four runs.
"(Both games) were similar," Sullivan said. "Offensively, we really executed the game plan that we had but, in the end, they scored more and that proved to be the difference in the game. We did various things well in both contests, but you can't just have some parts going well when you play a team of their caliber. I thought we were in both games until the end and we never really made it too comfortable for them."
Michigan 3-7, 0-6. After being shut out in the opener, the Illini blew a late lead in losing Game 2.
"We beat ourselves today in a lot of areas," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. "We haven't been smart on the basepaths recently and we gave up crucial outs. We didn't make smart pitches in a few situations and we didn't field our position a couple of times on bunt plays."
Illinois' John Anderson pitched well in Game 1 but didn't get any offensive support. Anderson allowed three runs in a complete-game seven-hitter.
The Illini were held to four hits in the loss.
In Game 2, Illinois led 5-3 before the Wolverines scored four in the bottom of the seventh. The Illini got a run back on Casey McMurray's RBI single in the ninth inning but couldn't push another run across.
Adam Davis was the lone Illini with multiple hits in the nightcap, going 3 for 4.