Women's gymnasts grab 6 All-America nods
CLEVELAND — It took the Illinois women's gymnastics program 37 years to produce five All-Americans. The Illini did one better than that Friday night alone.
Led by three-time honoree Melissa Fernandez, the Illini collected six All-America honors at the Wolstein Center at the NCAA Championships.
"To have six All-Americans at nationals speaks volumes about the work we put in this season and the future of our gymnastics program," Illinois interim coach Kim Landrus said. "It just shows how the program continues to progress every single year. Today was also an outstanding reward for Melissa after an outstanding career. She has done such a phenomenal job during her four years, and it is so exciting for her final meet to be the best meet of her career."
Fernandez finished tied for third in the all-around (39.375) and tied for fourth on the beam (9.850). She advanced to Sunday's individual event final in that event.
The senior from Eudora, Kan., was also a second-team All-American in floor exercise (9.850).
"I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity again," said Fernandez, who qualified for the beam final in 2009. "It was a fantastic experience and feels great to make event finals. I just took it one event at a time and just enjoyed the experience."
Senior Allison Buckley (9.875) and sophomore Alina Weinstein (9.850) were second-team All-America honorees in floor exercise.
Junior Kelsey Joannides was the other All-American, picking up second-team honors on the vault (9.875) for the Illini, who finished sixth in their second appearance at the NCAA Championships.
"We got off to a shaky start but came back and could not have done a better job on floor and vault," Landrus said. "They were able to put the beam rotation behind them and really rock the final two events. We have worked extremely hard all season to get to this stage, and I am extremely proud of their performances today."
UI 9, Michigan 2. Kevin Johnson fired a complete game, striking out eight, as the Illini cruised in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"Kevin Johnson did a great job for us today," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. "I was impressed by how he handled a rough first inning and bounced back to have the outing that he did."
Johnson gave up solo runs in the first and seventh innings.
Brandon Hohl, who doubled twice, had three RBI, and Casey McMurray smacked a two-run triple as Illinois (12-17, 4-3 Big Ten) scored all nine runs in the third and fourth innings and never looked back.
"Offensively, we hit well up and down the lineup," Hartleb said. "A lot of guys had good at-bats today."
Matt Dittman hit a solo home run, and Justin Parr and Adam Davis also drove in runs for the Illini.
In women's track & field:
At Knoxville, Tenn. Tamika Robinson (100-meter hurdles), Ashley Kelly (400) and Kawanna Brooks (triple jump) scored second-place finishes on the first day of the Sea Ray Relays.
Led by a third-place finish by Elizabeth Boyle, five Illini finished among the top eight in the 3,000.
Kendall McCaugherty nabbed third place in the high jump.
In men's track & field:
At Knoxville, Tenn. Andrew Riley ran to victory in the 110 hurdles, blitzing the field in 13.63 seconds at the Sea Ray Relays. Unity product Zebo Zebe, a freshman, won the unseeded 800 for the Illini.
The Illini also got runner-up finishes from Stanley Azie (200), Jim Riddle (5,000), Nathan Troester (10,000) and Cody Wisslead (400 hurdles).
"It was a tough day with the weather in Tennessee, but I am pleased with the way our guys competed," interim coach Mike Turk said.
In women's tennis:
Michigan 7, UI 0. The 10th-ranked Wolverines (8-0 Big Ten), featuring three players ranked in the Top 100, blitzed the Illini on Friday in Urbana.
Illinois' Rachael White (No. 110) nearly forced a third set against No. 87 Brooke Bolender, falling 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2.
"Michigan is a tough team," coach Michelle Dasso said. "I was very impressed with them, but there are things we certainly have to take a look at and do a better job. In general, I was really impressed with Michigan's energy and their ability to move forward at the points and finish at the net. I think we can learn from that and hopefully implement that on Sunday (against Michigan State at Urbana)."