One year ago, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team hosted Eastern Michigan for an exhibition meet. The Wolverines dropped that contest to the Eagles, 194.050-183.350, thanks in part due to gymnasts being absent with injuries and illness.
Sunday, with junior Paige Zaziski and sophomore Olivia Karas out, Michigan seemed in danger of a similar result.
But no such issues plagued the Wolverines in this year’s event. Led by junior Lauren Marinez and sophomore Emma McLean, who each took on two new events, the Wolverines edged Eastern Michigan, 196.200-194.750.
“You see people practice and practice and practice, but competition is different,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “Sometimes they’re a little better on competition, sometimes they’re more nervous and they make silly mistakes. It’s like anything else, you want to try and practice competing, and I think we’ll be a lot better when we come out in January against Utah.”
Marinez spent 2015 competing mostly on the beam. While she found success on the beam, scoring better than 9.750 five times, she spent fall workouts putting herself in position to participate in more events. Her efforts showed Sunday as she entered the bars and vault events and posted respective scores of 9.875 and 9.825.
As for McLean, she participated in the floor and vault events last season. Like Marinez, McLean produced strong performances in her events. Her best scores were 9.875 on the floor against Nebraska on Jan. 29 and 9.850 in the vault at the NCAA Regional on Apr. 2, but she was consistent throughout the year.
Against the Eagles, McLean became an all-around performer for Michigan. She had a solid debut on the bars, tallying a score of 9.825, and continued her vault prowess, as she scored an impressive 9.925 in that event.
Still, McLean insists that there is more for her to do.
“Personally, I just need to work on my confidence and compete like I train,” McLean said. “As a team, we need to work on just being ourselves.”
While Zaziski and Karas were only held out against Eastern Michigan for precautionary reasons and will return soon, the depth that Marinez and McLean provide with their new events will undoubtedly be appreciated by the Wolverines.
But Michigan will have to wait a while to put its increased depth into practice. The Wolverines are not scheduled to compete again until Jan. 7 at Utah. Plocki insisted, though, that the time off will not be a bad thing.
“The fall tends to be a long semester, a lot of hard work, a lot of training.” Plocki said. “Their bodies need to recover a little bit, so having a week break at home I think will help physically and mentally. And I think when they come back they’ll be excited and revved up and ready to go. I think coming back with a fresh body and a good, energized attitude will be a good thing.”