By Rajat Khare, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 19, 2012
The Wolverines have been walking a fine line all season — 3.937 inches, to be exact — and could not afford to slip up.
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But they did.
The No. 22 Michigan women’s gymnastics team (6-2 overall) hosted No. 1 Utah (5-1) at Crisler Center on Friday. The Wolverines were as confident as ever, coming off a second-place finish at the Masters Classic, where they tallied a season-high 195.825 points. But Michigan needed to best their previous performance to upset the Utes, who were coming into the meet averaging 196.855 points per meet.
“This was a difficult meet for a lot of reasons,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “I really anticipated that we were going to come out here and have a great night.”
At the end of two rounds on the vault and uneven bars, the Wolverines kept themselves within striking distance, trailing Utah 98.050-97.825. But as the case has been all season, the bar brought about Michigan’s downfall.
“We came out of vault really confident, ready to hit bars,” said junior Shelby Gies. “We didn’t get maybe exactly the scores we wanted to on bars, but we were still on a high.”
The Wolverines got off to a good start by way of Gies, who tallied a 9.800.
“That’s why Shelby is our lead-off person,” Plocki said. “Because she is typically very solid and can get us started off with a good score.”
Junior Brittnee Martinez and sophomore Joanna Sampson hit their routines with 9.675 and 9.725, respectively. Junior Katie Zurales then came up with a score of 9.850, tying Utah's score for the event title.
Michigan had finally overcome the hurdle of the bar — or so it seemed.
On the final routine, freshman Sachi Sugiyama lost balance and fell off the beam, costing Michigan valuable points. This meant that rather being an exhibition performance, sophomore Reema Zakharia would have to compete for the win. Utah held on for the win, besting Michigan, 196.250-194.850,
Zakharia had the same result, losing her balance and falling off the beam. Michigan had to count the score of 9.200, which meant that any hopes of an upset were gone.
“The fact is, we need to start putting full meets together,” Plocki said. “And we can’t afford to let opportunities like this keep passing us by.”
The team's inexperience in meets seems to be the main reason it isn't able to close opponents out.
“We have worked, and worked, and worked and our beam has improved significantly in practices, in training,” Plocki said. “These are the growing pains that we're going through right now. They're doing it in practice ... I'm just waiting for it to show up in the competition.”
After taking a step backward against the Utes, Michigan will look to bounce back on the road. The team's road performances have been strong, so they'll look to continue that trend as it embarks on a three-weekend long road stand.