The report cards are in

The report cards are in

Men's golf: A

Why an A: Count the ways. Mike Small's squad won its third straight Big Ten championship, with Dylan Meyer winning a seventh straight individual title for the Illini. A 10th straight NCAA tournament appearance and third straight national semifinals berth followed.

Last year's grade: A

High point: Illinois rallied to secure its spot in the NCAA championships, shooting the lowest team score of the final round, with Nick Hardy tying for medalist honors.

Low point: The young Illini team took its lumps in the fall and spring with eighth-place finishes at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational in October and Southern Highlands Collegiate in March.

Big Ten finish: 1st

Softball: A-

Why an A-: A second straight NCAA tournament in Tyra Perry's second season as coach matched what the Illini accomplished in 2003-04 and 2009-10, while 39 wins was the most since 2010.

Last year's grade: C+

High point: Illinois was the only Big Ten team and only squad other than Washington to beat Minnesota in the regular season, with a walkoff RBI double by Annie Fleming sealing the 4-3 victory in April.

Low point: Five losses in their final six regular season games, including a doubleheader sweep by Northwestern, saw the Illini stumble into the Big Ten tournament.

Big Ten finish: 4th

Men's gymnastics: B+

Why a B+: Illinois' six-year run of national champions came to an end this spring, but the Illini did return from West Point, N.Y., with a half-dozen All-America honors and a third-place team finish.

Last year's grade: B+

High point: The third-place finish at the NCAA championships, with Chandler Eggleston and Bobby Baker both earning two All-America honors, was Illinois' best since the title-winning 2012 team.

Low point: A third straight runner-up finish at the Big Ten championships — this time by 2.2 points to Ohio State — stung a little more since it happened on the Illini's "home floor" at State Farm Center.

Big Ten finish: 2nd

Wrestling: B+

Why a B+: Illinois didn't have a national champion for the first time since 2012 but had three wrestlers — Isaiah Martinez, Zac Brunson and Zane Richards — earn All-America honors.

Last year's grade: A-

High point: Seven wrestlers, including a trio of first-timers, qualified for the NCAA championships in March — one more than the 2016 season. Four made the quarterfinals.

Low point: A third straight national title eluded Martinez, who lost in the 165-pound championship match to Penn State's Vincenzo Joseph and was pinned for just the second time in his Illini career.

Big Ten finish: 5th

Men's cross-country: B

Why a B: The Illini slipped back in the Big Ten after last year's second-place finish but earned an NCAA championships bid for the first time in 30 years.

Last year's grade: B

High point: A second-place finish at the Bluegrass Invitational stands as the best, but finishing third at the NCAA Midwest regional — a high since 2002 — held more weight.

Low point: The biggest disappointment of the season was a 27th-place finish out of 30 teams at the Ed Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invite.

Big Ten finish: 6th

Men's tennis: B

Why a B: It wasn't a smooth season, what with the four-match losing streak in late March and an early exit at the Big Ten tournament, but the Illini still managed to get back to the Sweet 16.

Last year's grade: B

High point: Illinois won a few ranked matches in the regular season, but topping No. 10 Oklahoma State in a 4-3 comeback to reach the Sweet 16 — freshman Aleks Kovacevic sealing the victory in three sets — topped them all.

Low point: Illinois beat a ranked Michigan squad in mid-April with a 4-2 victory. Two weeks later the Illini bowed out in the second round of the Big Ten tournament to the Wolverines.

Big Ten finish: 3rd

Men's track and field: B-

Why a B-: Illinois got its program moving forward again — competing in the Big Ten and nationally — after injuries and planned redshirts derailed its 2016 campaign.

Last year's grade: D

High point: David Kendziera (110/400 hurdles), Jonathan Wells (high jump) and Jon Davis (1,500) earned All-America honors at the NCAA outdoor championships.

Low point: The Illini were in third place at the Big Ten indoor championships after the first day before sliding to ninth, even with a high jump title from Wells.

Big Ten finish: 9th (indoor) and 6th (outdoor)

Women's gymnastics: B-

Why a B-: The Illini failed to reach the NCAA championships for a third straight season but did have a strong showing at the Big Tens behind event titles from Mary Jane Horth and Lizzy LeDuc.

Last year's grade: B-

High point: Horth shined with wins in the vault and beam to help Illinois claim its 10th straight State of Illinois Classic title with a three-point margin on the rest of the field.

Low point: The Illini's NCAA regional appearance was their 12th straight and first as host since 2012, but they dropped from second to fourth following the final rotation to miss out on a trip to the NCAA Championships.

Big Ten finish: 2nd

Volleyball: C

Why a C: The Illini missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 and suffered through a seven-match losing streak mid-season that was the longest since a 17-match skid in 1983.

Last year's grade: B+

High point: Naya Crittenden crushed an efficient 15 kills as Illinois grinded out a five-set win at Purdue for its first victory in West Lafayette, Ind., since 2013.

Low point: The seventh loss in that seven-match losing streak came at home against No. 2 Minnesota. The low point being the Illini failed to win a set for the third straight match.

Big Ten finish: 8th

Baseball: C

Why a C: A young team with underclassmen starters at six positions was bound to have its struggles. Those came in a 6-16 start, but the Illini managed to finish the second half of the season 17-12.

Last year's grade: C

High point: Tyler Engel's walk-off walk gave Illinois an 11-inning victory against Northwestern on April 15 — just four days after the sophomore infielder's pinch-hit sacrifice fly secured a 10-inning win at Illinois State.

Low point: The 6-16 start to the season included three double-digit losses. No deficit was wider than the Illini's 16-2 loss at Florida Atlantic that saw the Owls rack up seven extra-base hits, including two home runs, as part of an 18-hit game.

Big Ten finish: 10th

Women's tennis: C

Why a C: The Illini couldn't match last year's 15-win season, but they did beat two top-40 teams in the spring and nearly upset No. 4 Ohio State in the second round of the Big Ten tournament (a 4-3 loss).

Last year's grade: B

High point: A victory against then-No. 33 Maryland in late March, with Grace Tapak and Jaclyn Switkes getting key singles victories, was the highlight of a season-best five-match winning streak.

Low point: A 5-2 road loss at Nebraska snapped said winning streak and was the lone blemish next to seven wins during Illinois' most impressive run of the season from March 17 to April 9.

Big Ten finish: 6th

Women's golf: C

Why a C: The season ended on a bit of a downward trend, but Renee Slone's squad never finished worse than sixth in any tournament during the regular season.

Last year's grade: C+

High point: A second-place finish at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate in September was Illinois' best of the season, and the Illini topped three top-30 teams in the process.

Low point: Illinois shot a lower score each consecutive round of the Big Ten tournament but finished in the middle of the pack as other teams went lower and the Illini couldn't keep up.

Big Ten finish: 7th

Men's basketball: C-

Why a C-: No injuries and no arrests were the difference from the 2015-16 season. What didn't change was another missed NCAA tournament, which led to John Groce's firing.

Last year's grade: F

High point: Pick your favorite. Northwestern might have made the NCAA tournament for the first time ever, but Illinois handed the Wildcats a pair of losses in the regular season.

Low point: Five straight wins to end the nonconference schedule had the Illini on a roll before they were pummeled by Melo Trimble & Co. in a 25-point loss at Maryland in the Big Ten opener.

Big Ten finish: 9th

Women's cross-country: C-

Why a C-: One win for Scott Jones' squad in the fall, but the Illini still couldn't escape the bottom tier of the Big Ten.

Last year's grade: C

High point: Audrey Blazek, Denise Branch, Amanda Fox and Valerie Bobart all finished in the top 10 to lead Illinois to a victory at the Iowa Regional Preview meet.

Low point: A 24th-place finish at the Roy Griak Invite in Minneapolis ultimately turned out to be a precursor for the Big Ten championships. The Illini beat Iowa but no other Big Ten team.

Big Ten finish: 10th

Football: D

Why a D: The Illini dipped from 5-7 in 2015 to 3-9 last season in their first year with Lovie Smith, with continued limited success in the Big Ten.

Last year's grade: D

High point: Third-string quarterback Jeff George Jr. connected on a 16-yard touchdown pass to Sam Mays with 95 seconds to play as Illinois rallied to beat Michigan State 31-27 on Nov. 5.

Low point: The Illini finished nonconference play 1-2 after dropping a 34-10 game at home to Western Michigan. The Broncos went up 14-0 in the first quarter and never trailed.

Big Ten finish: 5th in West

Women's soccer: D

Why a D: The Illini's 6-11-2 finish marked the first sub-.500 record for Janet Rayfield since 2009 and just the third such season in her 15 seasons as coach.

Last year's grade: C-

High point: A 3-0 victory against Michigan was Illinois' only victory against a team in the top half of the Big Ten, and for a team that scored just 16 goals in 19 matches, a trifecta against the Wolverines stands out.

Low point: Plenty of teams lost at Penn State last season, but the Illini's setback in late September put the capper on an 0-4-1 start to Big Ten play that put them behind the eight ball in the fall.

Big Ten finish: 11th

Women's track and field: D

Why a D: Jayla Stewart added her name to the list of top Illinois hurdlers, but an injury-plagued season from Olympic hurdler Pedrya Seymour didn't help the Illini make many strides.

Last year's grade: C-

High point: The Illinois Twilight victory on April 22, with five event titles, was just the second win of the combined indoor/outdoor season for the Illini.

Low point: Only Rutgers kept the Illini from doubling up last-place finishes in the Big Ten championships, although their 14 points barely outpaced the Scarlet Knights' 11.

Big Ten finish: 12th (indoor) and 12th (outdoor)

Women's swimming and diving: F

Why an F: The Illini couldn't turn some fall successes into the same come February with another bottom of the Big Ten finish.

Last year's grade: D-

High point: The opening weekend saw Illinois notch four victories, including one against Big Ten rival Michigan State.

Low point: January and February were rough again, with losses in three of four events before another second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten championships.

Big Ten finish: 12th

Women's basketball: F

Why an F: There might have been one more Big Ten win, but the Illini put up a second straight nine-win season that cost coach Matt Bollant his job.

Last year's grade: F

High point: A Big Ten tournament-record 14 three-pointers helped Illinois top Nebraska in the first round for its first tournament victory since the 2010-11 season.

Low point: Losing to D-II Drury in an exhibition game set the tone for what would be another rough season for the Illini.

Big Ten finish: 11th

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

Moonpie wrote on July 16, 2017 at 10:07 am

Notice you have to scroll down ten miles to even find Illini football and basketball and both deserve an F, but the Lazy Gazoo cheerleaders tossed a softball of a C- to hoops.

Both should have led the list -- if you aren't trying to hide something, that is.

BruckJr wrote on July 16, 2017 at 10:07 am

The list goes from best to worst so of course football and basketball (and any other sport in which Mike Thomas made a coaching hire) are going to be towards the bottom.

MasterOfTheObvious wrote on July 16, 2017 at 3:07 pm

You're really not that smart are you. (Rhetorical)

MasterOfTheObvious wrote on July 16, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Actually, Softball head coach Tyra Perry was a Thomas hire and she has led the softball prgram to 2 straight NCAA Tournaments, so in the end, she may be the best hire of the Thomas tenure.

Now that Whitman has hired a volleyball coach, men's basketball coach, women's basketball coach, and women's gymnastics coach - to match his first month hire of a football coach, we can begin to see how this next round of leaders rises or falls.  

My guess is that the upcoming 2017-18 school year will yield a lower half of the Big Ten finish in all of the above, save for women's gymnastics.

You have to wonder how long the women's soccer, swimming/diving, baseball and women's golf teams will be allowed to flounder.  Save for the one good season three years ago the baseball team has been a bust under Hartleb, but given the dismal facility that they play in why expect any more.  Same goes for the pool as it's a real eyesore. Women's Golf and Soccer should be better than the bad records they put up.  My bet is that Whitman does not really care about these sports and as long as they are not abusing people he will keep these mediocre coaches around.  

BruckJr wrote on July 16, 2017 at 7:07 pm

You are right about Perry.  Loved Sullivan but it was time for her to move on.  She saw the writing on the wall.  I though women's golf might be headed in the right direction until they lost their best player.  Now, not so much.