LIVE BLOG: No. 27 Illinois and SEMO at No. 16 Missouri

Kicking off the first tri-meet of the 2020 season, we have the Illinois Illini and SEMO Redhawks facing the Missouri Tigers. 

Missouri is coming off its best season since 2010 (and highest preseason ranking since 2011) while SEMO is looking to bounce back after getting hammered by injuries in 2019. Illinois finished strong last season, but a lackluster performance at its preseason friendly meet against Illinois State left fans on edge (and Mallory Mizuki’s retearing her ACL is doing nothing to quell those fears). 

Just because the the final results will most likely follow the preseason rankings doesn’t mean we aren’t in for any surprises. There are a lot of questions and unknowns that we’ll (hopefully) get answers to tonight!

What to Watch For

Missouri

  • Helen Hu and Sienna Schreiber: Hu is (deservedly) on the presumptive shortlist for SEC Freshman of the Year, but fellow freshman Schreiber also competed all around at the Tigers’ recent intrasquad. 
  • Alisa Sheremeta: The junior transfer from now-defunct UIC was one of the Flames’ top contributors on beam and floor and could potentially do the same for Missouri. 
  • Other: Six gymnasts posted a 9.800 or better at last month’s Black and Gold meet; will they be able to match (or even exceed) those results in competition?

Illinois

  • Rae Balthazor: The senior was a top scorer for the Illini in 2018, but missed most of last season due to a foot injury. After sitting out against Illinois State, she competed floor at the recent Orange and Blue exhibition. All-in-all, it remains to be seen how she’ll contribute in 2020. 
  • Mia Takekawa: The freshman earned a 9.950 on beam at the Orange and Blue Exhibition and secured a spot on every Fantasy Gymnerd’s dream roster.  
  • Other: Vault is a big question mark, especially without Mizuki’s Tsuk full; however, at least a couple of the freshmen have trained 10.0 vaults, so anything’s possible!

SEMO

  • Ashley Albrecht: Transfer (and Sherameta’s former Flames teammate) was missing from the team’s most recent intrasquad. If healthy, she could be a difference-maker on vault and floor. 
  • Anna Kaziska: Kaziska had a fabulous freshman season and will be looking to earn even more accolades as a sophomore. 
  • Other: With eight freshmen—including Mallory Desch, sister of Alabama’s Maddie—joining the Redhawks, depth shouldn’t be as much of an issue this season. *knocking on all the wood* 

https://twitter.com/GoSoutheast/status/1212499627737526272?s=20

The meet will be Saturday, January 4 at 5 p.m. ET at Missouri’s Hearnes Center. Live stats will be available here, and it’ll stream live on SECN+ (if you need help figuring out how to tune in, CGN’s got you covered).

Ooh, new leos from the Illini:

Rotation One: Missouri vault, Illinois bars, SEMO beam

Schrieber (Missouri): Pretty Yurchenko full to open, just the tiniest pike down and a small hop on the landing. 9.775.

Gottula (Missouri): Whew, high and floaty Yurchenko full but off center. More or less stuck. 9.800.

Tucker (Missouri): Nice body position on her Yurchenko full, a small hop in place.

Hu (Missouri): HERE SHE GOES! Didn’t get the best block and under-rotated, landed with chest down and takes a small step forward. 9.550.

Brandt (Missouri): Fabulous handspring pike half with an impatient landing. 9.800.

Porter (Missouri): Slightly short on her Yurchenko one and a half and some legs in the air and a step back, but she put it to her feet with a decent landing. 9.750.

Biondi (Illinois): Missed the routine, but a 9.775. Good start for the Illini.

Takekawa (Illinois): 9.825

Howell (Illinois): 9.825

O’Donnell (Illinois): nice handstands , good straddled Jaeger to bail. 9.775

Powe (Illinois): 9.775

Bixler (Illinois): 9.750

Maxwell (SEMO): Just saw the dismount, a very nice round-off 1.5 with a small crossover step. 9.100, I’m assuming she fell…

Miller (SEMO): 9.400

Moffitt (SEMO): 8.900.

Adams (SEMO): Front aerial to bhs with a small check, bit of a pause. Another small check on her full turn. Ugh, comes off on her split series. Cat leap to side aerial, and she’s off again. Bummer, because she has a really nice flow and poise. Bhs stepout to one and a half landed deep (looks like she missed her foot). 8.450.

Solorzano-Caruso (SEMO): Switch full to wolf, nice. Soft legs on bhs loso, but rock solid. Split full with a minor leg up check. Cool side somi to tucked full dismount, stuck. Clutch performance. 9.550

As we’re waiting for SEMO’s final routine, we just got word Denver’s Alexis Vasquez got the first 10 of the season on beam!

Kaziska (SEMO): Gorgeous front aerial to split. She looks very calm so far. Fantastic bhs loso. Switch split to split quarter, bang on. Love her finger extension on her choreo. Round off one and a half with a small hop to finish, excellent routine. 9.750

Fisher (SEMO): Dancing to Shake It Off before her exhibition, lol. I wonder if the music choice was intentional… Bhs loso to split jump. No clue how she hung onto that after missing her hand on the bhs. Comes off on a double turn, but I like the effort. Decent split series, a little shy on positions. Cat leap to aerial to tuck full with a hop.

AFTER ONE: MISSOURI 48.900, ILLINOIS 48.975, SEMO 46.700

Strong start on vault for Mizzou with obvious room for upgrades. Their overall form and power looked very nice, and lays a good foundation to build on. I didn’t see much of Illinois’ bars (sorry, the split screen was rough, lol), but the scores bode well, as did the bits I did see; very poised and polished. They’ll be thrilled to be leading the Tigers after one. SEMO had an unfortunate meltdown on beam, but finished really strong. They have some great elements; hopefully, this is just opening season nerves that will be worked out.

Rotation Two: Missouri bars, Illinois beam, SEMO floor

Tucker (Missouri): Slightly short on that first handstand, but excellent blind change to piked bail. Good giant full to high, stuck double tuck. Can’t start much better than that. 9.825

Christensen (Missouri): Giant full to Tkatchev. Not quite hitting handstands (especially on overshoot). Good giant full to tight double tuck, tiny shuffle. 9.750

Sheremeta (Missouri): Good first handstand. Blind change to straddled Jaeger, good. Boo, Goes over on a handstand. Rushes the overshoot. Perfect last handstand, blind change to just a front tuck dismount. She looks rattled, so glad she played it safe. 8.850

Borden (Illinois): 9.600

Moffitt (SEMO): Saw a strong closing double pike. 9.725, awesome start!

Schreiber (Missouri): Ugh, comes off on her opening handstand. Some for on her Maloney. Decent double lay dismount (little piked), but had to take a step. 9.100/

Biondi (Illinois): 9.750

Howell (Illinois): came off on a back pike. Nice positions on switch split to straddle quarter, but a little pause. 8.950

Porter (Missouri): Great first handstand. straddled Jaeger, nice. Really aggressive handstands. Didn’t quite hit the handstand on her bail or last handstand. Blind change to a little short double front with a small step. Good job getting the Tigers back on track. 9.750

Hu (Missouri): Beautiful handstand to Church. Has to take an extra hip circle after her Pak, oof. Maloney half was all right. Off-center full pirouette to double tuck. 9.725 feels pretty generous.

Brandt (Missouri):  Exhibition. Wonky Pak. Blind change to piked Markelov. Pikey double lay with a low chest on the landing and a step. 9.625

Noonan (Illinois): Cam in halfway through. Beat to double stag, pretty. Cartwheel to gainer full, very nice.

Maxwell (SEMO): 9.625

Desch (SEMO): 8.800

Salorzano-Caruso (SEMO): High double pike, a little out of control on the landing (maybe OOB?). Fhs full to front lay, very light and lovely. Nice leap series, good positions (especially on the switch split full). Finished with a strong Rudi with some leg form, but good finish. Another clutch one from her. 9.725

Scott (Illinois): Step on her gainer full dismount. 9.850

Takekawa (Illinois): So help me, if they don’t show her on the main screen… Aerial to bhs stepout, great. Switch split to loso, perfect. Kicks out of her full turn, great. Bhs to a stuck gainer full, excellent beam debut from her. 9.900

Kaziska (SEMO): Strong fhs double twist to open. Switch full series, very nice. Saw a loso coming at the end of a pass that looked gorgeous. 9.825

AFTER TWO: ILLINOIS 97.825, MISSOURI 97.050, SEMO 95.125 

Who though Illinois would be leading by nearly a point after two rotations? Well done, Illini. They’re looking impressive, and Takekawa anchoring beam is clearly the correct decision. SEMO had a much better floor rotation; glad to see them fight back and showcase what they’re capable of. That 48.525 is awesome. Missouri obviously had some issues on bars, but they seemed to be mostly aggressive mistakes (they can work with that).

Ben just said, “A little bit of good and a little bit of bad for everybody.” That pretty much sums things up so far! It does make for an exciting meet, though.

Rotation Three: Missouri beam, Illinois floor, SEMO vault

Schreiber (Missouri): Well-controlled full turn. Bhs loso, manages to not wobble after getting a bit off. Switch half to split to beat, a little shy on the positions. Insanely fast-twisting Rudi dismount with a small hop. Also, I like her ’90s CGA choreo. 9.850… Okay. Guess I’m not the only one enjoying a glass of wine with this meet!

Takekawa (Illinois): 9.850… She’s having herself a day, huh?

Moffitt (SEMO): 9.475

Adams (SEMO): Yurchenko layout. 9.475

Nicholson (Missouri): Bhs bhs loso, rhythm was off from the beginning and she falls after a leg up. Aggressive straddle to straddle half to beat. Cartwheel gainer full is an emphatic stick. 9.050

Howell (Illinois): 9.850

Maxwell (SEMO): Yurchenko tucked full, a little low on the landing and a hop, but overall nice! 9.500

Sheremeta (Missouri): Love her opening low-beam choreo. Bhs loso with a hip check, but stays on. Hitch kick to straddle quarter, nice. Front aerial, a little check. Front toss to beat, good. Keeps her leg straight on the full turn, which is fun. Tucked (?) gainer full with a good landing. Way to rebound after a tough bars set.

Solorzano-Caruso (SEMO): Solid Yurchenko full, a little off center. 9.625.

Scott (Illinois): Saw her dancing out of the corner of my eye and it looked like she was enjoying herself. 9.825

Kaziska (SEMO): 9.625

Porter (Missouri): Love her pressed handstand to straddle hold mount. Confident leap series. Front aerial to back tuck, bam. Refused to wobble (even thought she wanted to). Front toss, great. Round-off one and a half with a large hop forward, but very nice. 9.850

Noonan (Illinois): Strong fhs double full to open. Also saw a stutter on a front lay. 9.825

Gottula (Missouri): Bhs bhs loso, beautifully floated. Everything on releve, love it. Switch leap to split 3/4, good amplitude. Stuck cartwheel gainer full, very well done. 9.875

Biondi (Illinois): Fabulous double pike. 9.875

Hu (Missouri): Beautiful handstand kickover to split. Bhs loso, perfect. Switch split to split jump, nice. Y full turn, great. Front aerial with a slight arm wave. Another front aerial to scale, excellent. Valdez to handstand split pirouette to gainer full dismount with a step. That’s more like it! 9.850 is a little high for two visible errors, but no doubt that was a gorgeous routine.

Simons (Illinois): Love her commitment to the choreo. Huge double pike to open. One and a half to front layout, gorgeous. Excellent amplitude on jump series. 9.900

McCrary (Missouri): Lovely exhibition, very calm and fluid. Jump combo was a little tentative, didn’t quite hit the positions. Bhs to double twist with some leg form and a hop. Nice job from her.

AFTER THREE: ILLINOIS 147.100, MISSOURI 146.200, SEMO 142.825

Well, that was fun! Missouri and Illinois looked great on beam and floor respectively, and SEMO had a serviceable vault rotation given. This does not look like the same Illinois team from a month ago; they’re confident, powerful and having fun. Missouri has fabulous beam composition and diverse skills; if they can clean up the little details, this event will be a showstopper.

Rotation Four: Missouri floor, Illinois vault, SEMO bars

Nicholson (Missouri): Fhs double front, a little short and out of control. Fhs Rudi, much better. She’s having fun with the choreo 🙂 Switch split to Popa, good. One and a half to front lay, a little soft legs on the landing but good. 9.775

Waight (Illinois): Yurchenko half, little shuffle on landing. 9.750

Maxwell (SEMO): 9.500

Sheremeta (Missoui): Fhs double full, fought for the landing. Switch split to Popa, a little short on the positions. Fhs Rudi loso, excellent. Shushanova, woohoo! One and a half to front loso, well done. So glad to see her competing! 9.850

Howell (Illinois): 9.775

Fischer (SEMO): 8.500

Gottula (Missouri): Strong double pike to open. Sassy choreo, I like it. Barani to back double twist, cool pass! Tour jete half to split full , very well done. Tight double tuck landed with the chest down, but good routine overall. 9.850

Takekawa (Illinois): Yurchenko full, a little off center and a hop on the landing. 9.775

Bates (SEMO): 9.775

Scott (Illinois): Yurchenko full. Had to pike down and took some steps. 9.700

Simons (Illinois): 9.775

Townes (Illinois): 9.700

Miller (SEMO): 9.700

McCrary (Missouri): Great form on front lay to Rudi. Nice double pike with a little hop. Switch side to Popa, good. Two and a half landed in a lunge to finish. 9.875

Porter (Missouri): BIG opening double pike, kicks out. One and a half to front layout, well done. Good amplitude on leap series. Kicks out of her double tuck to finish. Really well done. 9.900

Tucker (Missouri): FTDT to open, solid. She’s getting into the choreo. Double twist to loso, very cool. Switch side to wolf to Shushanova, awesome. Double pike with chest down, but pulls it out. Shouldn’t outscore Porter, but who knows? 9.875

AFTER FOUR: ILLINOIS 195.850, MISSOURI 195.600,  SEMO 191.250

Wow, that ended up being a really tight race and (maybe) the first upset of 2020? Also, hats off to SEMO for beating their 2019 season high by a point! Beam issues aside, this bodes really well for the Redhawks. Missouri and Illinois both showed flashes of brilliance today, but the Illini were able to capitalize on some Tiger mistakes to eke out the win.

Illinois freshman Mia Takekawa takes the AA win with a 39.350 (for those keeping track, that’s what Kennedi Edney scored last night and only 0.025 behind Mollie Korth’s score). Told you to watch out for her!


Article by Claire Billman 

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