Illinois team-by-team breakdown

Illinois team-by-team breakdown

Baseball
High point: Receiving Big Ten’s only at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Low point: Losing NCAA elimination game after entering ninth inning with 3-2 lead.
Big Ten finish: T-5th
What’s next: Plenty of holes to fill in field, but starting rotation returns intact.

Football
High point: Illini handle Western Michigan 24-7 in Tim Beckman’s UI coaching debut.
Low point: Big Ten losing streak reaches 14 in season-ending 50-14 blowout at Northwestern.
Big Ten finish: 6th (in division)
What’s next: Discouraged fan base looking for some signs of progress.

Men’s basketball
High point: Beating No. 1 Indiana at buzzer has to rank as No. 1.
Low point: Month of January, Illini go 2-6, then lose first game in February, too.
Big Ten finish: T-7th
What’s next: Lots of new faces in John Groce’s second season at coaching helm.

Men’s cross-country
High point: Fourth-place Big Ten finish is highest at conference meet since 1996.
Low point: Illini placed 14th out of 20 teams at Notre Dame Invitational.
Big Ten finish: 4th
What’s next: Both NCAA qualifiers were seniors; ‘13 roster will be heavy on sophomores.

Men’s golf
High point: Match-play victory against top-ranked California in NCAA semifinals.
Low point: Strong final round can’t save UI from 12th-place finish at Augusta Invitational
Big Ten finish: 1st
What’s next: Everyone except Thomas Pieters returns from NCAA runner-up lineup.

Men’s gymnastics
High point: Yoshi Mori leads Illini to share of second place at Windy City Invitational.
Low point: Fifth-place Big Ten finish UI’s lowest at conference meet since 2007.
Big Ten finish: 5th
What’s next: Return of 2012 NCAA all-around runner-up C.J. Maestas from injury will be huge.

Men’s tennis
High point: Freshman Jared Hiltzik wins decisive match in 4-3 triumph against No. 5 Duke.
Low point: NCAA Championships hosts knocked out one round short of nationals.
Big Ten finish: 4th
What’s next: Welcome back still-youthful roster that gained valuable experience.

Men’s track & field
High point: Runner-up finish in Big Ten indoors highest at league meet since 2000.
Low point: Had higher expectations than fourth-place finish at Big Ten outdoor meet.
Big Ten finish: 2nd indoor; 4th outdoor
What’s next: Six of seven NCAA outdoor qualifiers expected back for program on rise.

Softball
High point: Winning streak reaches 10 with come-from-behind 6-4 defeat of Ohio State.
Low point: Losing streak reaches nine with 9-3 loss to visiting Minnesota.
Big Ten finish: 6th
What’s next: Erratic 2013 makes forecasting 2014 a challenge. Could go either way.

Volleyball
High point: Handed eventual NCAA champion Texas one of its four defeats in 2012.
Low point: Nebraska rolls to 3-0 win at Huff Hall in front of ESPN2 national audience.
Big Ten finish: 8th
What’s next: Transition at setter will be key for team looking to bounce back from losing season.

Women’s basketball
High point: No. 6 Georgia entered the Assembly Hall 12-0, but Illini left with convincing 70-59 win.
Low point: Sixth-seeded Illini stunned by 11th-seeded Wisconsin in Big Ten tourney opener.
Big Ten finish: T-5th
What’s next: Should be deeper team but loss of two best players leaves sizable void to fill.

Women’s cross-country
High point: Courtney Yaeger leads Illini to fifth place in 18-team Notre Dame Invitational.
Low point: Lack of depth shows up in ninth-place finish at Big Ten meet.
Big Ten finish: 9th
What’s next: Continued growth; Four of seven NCAA regional entrants were freshmen or sophomores.

Women’s golf
High point: With three top-12 finishers, Illini tie for third in 14-team Wolverine Invitational.
Low point: Finishing last in 12-team Big Ten tournament one year after placing fifth.
Big Ten finish: 12th
What’s next: Need returnees to make major strides to avoid repeat of rocky season.

Women’s gymnastics
High point: Edge Big Ten champ Nebraska for second place at NCAA regional to reach nationals.
Low point: Week after scoring 196.125, tumble to 194.750 in loss at Nebraska.
Big Ten finish: 4th
What’s next: Lose Honda Award finalist Alina Weinstein but return three other All-Big Ten honorees.

Women’s soccer
High point: Defense shuts out top-seeded Penn State in 1-0 semifinal win at Big Ten tournament.
Low point: Second half of NCAA second round turns into blowout; North Carolina scores seven times in 9-2 win.
Big Ten finish: T-4th
What’s next: Last season for USA Soccer fixture Vanessa DiBernardo in Illini uniform.

Women’s swimming & diving
High point: Illini in first place entering final day of Northwestern Invitational before Wildcats overtake them.
Low point: Tie for 11th in Big Ten Championships; sixth straight year in that place.
Big Ten finish: T-11th
What’s next: Until facility is addressed, program at major recruiting disadvantage.

Women’s tennis
High point: All-America doubles team of Rachael White/Melissa Kopinski reaches NCAA quarterfinals.
Low point: As with men, it was hosting NCAA Championships and not qualifying as a team.
Big Ten finish: T-5th
What’s next: Two five-star recruits joining a solid core of returnees.

Women’s track & field
High point: Illini outduel Nebraska for first Big Ten indoor title in 17 years.
Low point: Denied sweep of Big Ten crowns when Penn State captures outdoor title.
Big Ten finish: 1st indoor; 2nd outdoor
What’s next: Plenty of firepower returns from top-14 NCAA indoor/outdoor program.

Wrestling
High point: Jesse Delgado’s title propelled Illini to ninth place at NCAA Championships.
Low point: Match was more competitive than 37-0 score, but shutout by Penn State stung.
Big Ten finish: 5th
What’s next: Losing three senior NCAA qualifiers, but some major recruiting talent is on way.

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