LIVE BLOG: No. 37 Iowa at No. 28 Illinois

Here we are, somehow already at the first Big Ten matchup of February!? Iowa and Illinois have been on fairly similar trajectories so far in 2018. Both teams started out slowly and put up some home and road scores they will be happy to drop, but things started looking up at the end of the month. The Hawkeyes, though they’re the lower ranked team, have the highest score of the two so far – a 196.0 at Maryland last weekend. Meanwhile, the Illini notched a 195.75 at Penn State.

This meet is incredibly evenly matched. Both teams hit season highs on the road last week. Both teams are without a standout performer—Clair Kaji is out for Iowa with a likely Achilles injury, and Mary Jane Horth is likely out for Illinois with an unknown ankle injury. Both teams are aiming at the 196 mark.  Both teams have had one 9.9 so far, both on beam, and both teams have put up a total of three 49.0 plus rotations so far this year. Illinois’ lowest January score came at home, and Iowa’s highest on the road, so we can’t even count on home scoring giving us a clear narrative here. It doesn’t get closer than this, folks, and I can’t wait to see what will go down!

This is Illinois’ pink meet! Both teams are also wearing teal ribbons.

Seems like we’ll be starting late, which is nothing new in the Big Ten. That SEC Friday night efficiency hasn’t carried over yet. Just waiting for the broadcast to get started.

Okay, we have the broadcast! But there are still small children running around the floor, so who knows how long until first vault.

Rotation 1: Illinois vault, Iowa bars

Haylee Roe (Ill.): The camera is VERY far away, so we’ll see what I can see. We also have no announcers, apparently, just the in gym PA. FTY, little slid back and some knees. They called it stuck on PA, but I’m giving that side eye.

Lanie Snyder (Iowa): Blind + piked Jaeger and a fall. Rough in the leadoff spot. Bail, not to hand, giant full + double tuck, feet in the air.

Jordyn Givens (Ill.): FTY, chest a little low and a tiny hop.

Live scores seem not to be working for the second Illinois meet in a row. Long wait for Snyder’s score.

Nicole Chow (Iowa): Ray, nice, over on a handstand, recovers, Pak. Falls, lands on her back. She seems fine, but Iowa is counting a fall now. Giant full, camera panned away before dismount.

Nicole Biondi (Ill.): Yhalf, nice body position, I think a small hop.

Maria Ortiz (Iowa): Another long wait for a score. Short first handstand, toe handstand + bail handstand. Tkatchev, nice. Double lay, tiny hop. They needed that hit.

Bridget Hodan (Ill.): FTY, stuck. Little break in the hips on the table.

Melissa Zurawski (Iowa): Hect mount. Giant full + piked Jaeger, leg sep. Bail handstand, nice last handstand, giant full + double tuck, fights and gets the stick! Nice.

Rae Balthazor (Ill.): FTY, huge, big hop back.

Emma Hartzler (Iowa): Hect mount. Archy first handstand, blind + Jaeger, Blind, straddle back, not to handstand. Giant full double tuck, fights for the stick.

Kasey Meeks (Ill.): FTY, good height, small knee bend.

Charlotte Sullivan (Iowa): Ray, very nice. Toe handstand, bail handstand tiny bit shy. Gorgeous toes! Giant full + stuck double tuck. The end of this lineup got it done!

Iowa exhibition: Ray, BIG straddle. Pak, very archy, but catches well. Short final handstand. Double lay, also archy and a step back.

After 1: No live stats! Boo!

The back half of Iowa’s lineup looked very strong. Some short handstands here and there, but every girl FOUGHT for a stick, which is the way to come back from counting a fall. Illinois looked decent on vault. The Illini are a very 9.7 vault team, but they are getting better amplitude. Some scores rolling in on twitter.

Scores announced in arena: Illinois 48.975; Iowa 48.325

That’s a big vault total for Illinois, and not a disaster for Iowa given that it includes a fall.

Rotation 2: Illinois bars, Iowa vault

Chow (Iowa): FTY, piked and some knees, but good distance.

Lindsay Dwyer (Ill.): Hect mount, blind + piked Jaeger + bail. Her Jaeger is great, flairs her arms. Giant full + double tuck. Nice start.

Misty-Jade Carlson (Iowa): FTY, piked big hop back.

Givens (Ill.): Hect mount. Nice first handstand, giant full + Jaeger, some legs. Bail handstand with leg sep. Giant full + double tuck, tiny hop and feet. They called that a stick too oy.

Zurawski (Iowa): FTY, better body position, small hop.B

Rachael Donovan (Ill.): Blind + piked Jaeger, catches close, bent arms. Bail, giant full + double tuck, small step.

Sullivan (Iowa): Yhalf, one of the prettiest you’ll see. Just a small hop back.

Biondi (Ill.): Weiler kip + Jaeger, nice. Bail hand, good. Nice last handstand, giant full + stuck double tuck. Good routine! Just a bit of toes throughout.

Ortiz (Iowa): FTY, big hop and a step, she was going for the stick.

Karen Howell (Ill.): Jaeger, nice. Pak, good catch. Her toes and handstands are lovely. Giant full + double tuck, small hop.

We’re going out of order for some reason, so more bars! I’m guessing a scoring issue on vault. These judges tonight!

Rae Balthazor (Ill.): Toe handstand, Jaeger IN THE RAFTERS. Bail, great last handstand, Full out tiny hop back. Her lines are huge!

I don’t even know what’s happening now. Looks like we’ll see bars exhibition before Iowa’s last vault?? Wait…maybe not? Larissa Libby doesn’t look thrilled right now.

Nikki Youd (Iowa): She has been waiting a full eternity. Yhalf, lovely, small hop forward.

Sarah Lyons (Ill. – exhibition): Oooo nice to see her out here! Her first time back since re-joining the team for her redshirt season. Blind + piked Jaeger. Giant full + bail handstand, lovely. Short final handstand, double lay stuck! She is certainly an option for the lineup.

WE HAVE SCORES NOW: Illinois: 49.2; Iowa: 48.55

Running total: Illinois: 98.125, Iowa: 96.875

That was a big rotation for Illinois. Two 9.9s (Balthazor and Biondi) led the way. With some more cleaned up landings that rotation could be huge moving forward. Iowa continues to look just a little sluggish. Lots of steps hurt that rotation, and for some reason the Yhalfs (Sullivan: 9.75 and Youd: 9.775) just didn’t score the way they normally do. Both teams are going into their best events, so look for Illinois to carry the momentum into beam and for Iowa to find its energy on floor.

Rotation 3: Illinois beam, Iowa floor

Roe (Ill.): Bhs loso, solid. beat + split 3/4, not really a full split. Hitch kick gainer loso, nice. RO 1.5, fights and gets the stick. Good start. 9.725

Youd (Iowa): Double tuck, little bit uncontrolled on the landing. Tour jete 1/2 + split full, fine. FHS front lay front full, nice landing. FHS rudi, low chest. 9.75

Biondi (Ill.): Chin stand mount. She moves with confidence. Switch + straddle 1/4, solid. Bhs loso, no problems. Will say that I can’t see knees at this distance. Cat leap + front aerial, no movement. RO 1.5, hop that she covers with the salute. That was rock solid. 9.8

Bre Fitzke (Iowa): Late addition to the lineup for Chow. Double pike, some feet, but huge. FHS front full front pike, little pikey in the takeoff on the full. Tour jete 1/2 popa, nice split. 1.5 + front lay, little foot slide on the landing. 9.8

Howell (Ill.): Little bobble on her full turn. Bhs layout to two feet, solid landing. Switch + straddle 1/4, nice. She’s really dancing her choreo. Front toss, ah drops her shoulder and can’t save it, falls. Cat leap switch side, huge. Good recovery. Needle scale + gainer pike off the end. 9.3

Chow (Iowa): Hmmm don’t know who they pulled then. Double tuck, nice landing. Really controlled. 1.5 + front pike, looked like some knees. Switch full split full straddle, traveled a lot through the leaps. Double pike, some leg sep, good landing. 9.85

Kylie Noonan (Ill.): Bhs loso, no problems. Cat lap + switch + gainer loso, and she’s off. Both teams counting a fall now. Side aerial, little off line but no wobble. Stuck gainer full off the side. 9.25

Sullivan (Iowa): Front through to a 2.5, step to the side. Double tuck, nice. Very intense music and choreo, and she’s selling it. Switch ring, doesn’t really get her head back, connected to a leap I missed. Solid two pass routine. 9.8

Balthazor (Ill.): Pressure is really on now, she needs to hit. Hitch kick + switch side, lovely. Bhs loso, small wobble. Front toss, solid. She looks more comfortable now. Beat Jump, straddle 3/4, gorgeous toes. Gainer pike off the end stuck. Nice recovery from the falls. 9.8

Zurawski (Iowa): Double pike, nice landing. FHS front full front lay, some knees and leg sep. Really performing. Switch side popa, doesn’t really get the popa around. FHS rudi, solid. 9.875

Crowd doing the ILL – INI chant.

Hodan (Ill.): Pretty toes and lines as always for her. Side aerial bhs and she falls. That’s unusual for her and pretty catastrophic for Illinois. Switch + sissone, lovely. Hitch kick + Illusion, my favorite combo. Cartwheel + gainer full off the side. 9.25

Snyder (Iowa): My favorite NCAA floor routine! Front through to a double tuck, chest a bit low. FHS front lay front full, gorgeous. Missed her leaps because I’m so excited about her rock medley. Double pike a few steps out and one out of bounds. 9.675

Julia Hutcherson (Ill – exhibition): She’s a junior and never competed beam! GAINER BHS LOSO GORGEOUS I love that. Switch + split half. She looks calm. Sissonne + standing loso no problems. Gainer full off the side stuck! That will make lineups.

Gina Leal (Iowa – exhibition): FHS front double twist, nice! Switch side + popa, nice split. 1.5 + front lay, almost sits the lay but stays on her feet. Think she fell on that last week. FHS rudi, slightly large step.

Rotation 3: Illinois: 48.025, Iowa: 49.075

Running total: Illinois: 146.2, Iowa: 145.95

Well. Illinois held the lead but things just became very interesting! It is extremely uncharacteristic for Illinois to struggle on beam, especially at home. Floor is not the Illini’s strongest event, so they will need to leave it all out there to take this one. Iowa, on the other hand, had a much better rotation and needs to carry that confidence into beam. This will be close!

Roe’s score updated from 9.725 to 9.825. Not sure if there was an inquiry or just an input error. Oop, also Biondi raised from 9.8 to 9.85. Judging continues to be bizarre.

Rotation 4: Illinois floor, Iowa beam

Rose Piorkowski (Iowa): Bhs loso loso, solid. I like the guts of a triple series in the leadoff. Cat leap + switch side. RO 1.5, tries to stick but has to hop back. Just a .1 hop. 9.725

Noonan (Ill.): FHS front lay rudi, solid, really pretty twisting form. Tour jete full. Switch ring + split full, little low on the ring. 1.5 + front lay, nice. Good two pass routine! 9.85

Sydney Hogan (Iowa): Bhs loso, solid. Split + beat + tuck 3/4, front toe in the split, some toes in the tuck. Hitch kick + side aerial + full dismount, couldn’t see her landing, out of the shot. 9.825

Biondi (Ill.): Freshmen going 1-2 in this rotation. Double pike, some feet but nice landing. Double tuck, nice. Tour jete 1/2 + wolf full, not the prettiest wolf position. FHS front lay front full, big step back to avoid sitting it, but covered well. 9.825

Sullivan (Iowa): Front aerial bhs, some front knee in the aerial. split half + beat. Side somi, solid. RO double twist fights for the stick, they might give it to her but they could take a small shuffle. 9.875

Roe (Ill.): Double pike, solid. Double tuck, no problems, nice tight tuck. Tour jete 1/2 + wolf full, better wolf position here. Front lay front full, good landing. Nice routine. 9.825

Fitzke (Iowa): Pretty releve! Bhs loso, bobbles and steps back, not a huge error though. Switch + straddle 3/4, leans back and lifts a foot but stays on. Side aerial. RO 1.5, hop to the side. 9.775

Howell (Ill.): Double tuck, good landing, chest up. Front lay barani split, some leg sep on the lay. Y turn to split, really pretty and original. Coldplay music, and she’s performing up to it. Double pike, chest very low. 9.8

Youd (Iowa): Front aerial bhs loso, nice. Switch + split pretty. Cartwheel gainer full off the side, great height on the gainer. 9.875

Hodan (Ill.): FHS front double punch front, almost hops out but saves it. That’s a huge pass! FHS rudi loso pretty. Switch + double stag. Illusion + Illusion, yes!!! FHS rudi, sticks it.

Chow (Iowa): Bhs layout two feet, hops backward on the beam, nice save. Side aerial + split. Switch half + split, nice toes. Gainer pike off the side, landed out of the camera frame. 9.85

Roe’s score now reads 9.875.

Balthazor (Ill.): Huge double tuck, hops out of bounds, maybe two or three tenths there. Tour jete full. Tour jete half + split full, pretty. She’s having fun with the choreo. 1.5 front lay, nice landing. 9.75

Carlson (Iowa – exhibition): Switch + split 1/4, nice. Bhs loso, solid. Split + loso, gorgeous legs in the loso. Bhs 1.5 dismount, stuck. Nice!

Givens (Ill. – exhibition): Double tuck, big, almost lunges out but saves it. 1.5 + front lay, some legs in the twist. Switch side wolf full. FHS front lay front full, lands very squatty and hops a bit.

Rotation 4: Illinois 49.125, Iowa: 49.2

FINAL: Illinois 195.325, Iowa: 195.15

Well, that was interesting! Iowa had a rough start but closed the meet very strong on floor and beam. If the Hawkeyes can clean up bars, they’ll be very happy. Illinois had three season high event totals, but beam did the Illini in. These aren’t the scores either team was looking for, but both have big positives to take from this meet. As we approach RQS season, though, these low scoring meets are going to start to become a problem for regionals.

Event winners:

VT: Kasey Meeks, 9.85
UB: Nicole Biondi, Rae Balthazor, 9.9
BB: Charlotte Sullivan, Nikki Youd, 9.875
FX: Haylee Roe, Melissa Zurawksi, 9.875
AA: 1. Nicole Biondi, 39.325; 2. Charlotte Sullivan, 39.3; 3. Rae Balthazor, 39.2

Live blog by Emily Minehart

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