The final score was 196.4625.
It was illuminated on the scoreboard, it showed up on the monitors, it sat on the record sheet. It was a decent score, good enough for a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Semifinal. But for the Michigan women’s gymnastics team, it wasn’t enough to send the team to the Super Six.
And for seniors Talia Chiarelli and Nicole Artz, it marked their final meet as Michigan gymnasts.
“They’ve been my role models, they’ve been my sisters, my best friends,” said sophomore Olivia Karas. “I mean, anything you could possibly say about two people. … I could go on for hours about what they’ve done for this program, this team, the people on this team, the people before me on the team.
“It’s just been like a whirlwind of things they’ve done. They’re the best two captains I could have asked for. You can’t ask for much more in senior captains and friends and people, and I’m so lucky I got the opportunity to get to know them as well as I did.”
Out of six teams in a bracket stacked with top-ranked teams, the Wolverines finished fifth. Only the top three teams in the session move on to the next round, and those spots were claimed by Louisiana State (198.2750), Florida (197.8125) and Alabama (197.6000). Nebraska also topped Michigan with a score of 197.2125, while Georgia rounded out the bottom of the bracket with 195.8000.
Artz, Chiarelli and junior Brianna Brown were the only gymnasts on the roster with previous NCAA Tournament experience. Artz finished her final season with eight All-American honors, including second-team honors on bars and floor, where she tied for ninth and 15th, respectively.
Brown also tied for ninth on the bars and received second-team honors for the event with a score of 9.9000. Sophomore Olivia Karas, one of four athletes who participated in the all-around, tied for 11th and finished with a score of 39.4250 and received second-team honors for vault, where she tied for fifth with a score of 9.900.
The Wolverines — who came into the meet with Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Regional titles — stumbled in their early events and were unable to come back with enough firepower to make up for where they fell short.
Paige Zaziski, a junior all-around transfer from Arkansas, initially fell on the bars, resulting in a 9.1375. The score wasn’t counted, as five other routines were hit on the bars, and Zaziski made a comeback on the beam with a team-high 9.8875.
The rest of the beam scores weren’t as beneficial, though. Chiarelli lost her balance on a side aerial and suffered a fall, resulting in a 9.3250. Freshman Lexi Funk fell as well, forcing Michigan to take one of the two falls.
“From the very first event, our last person up missed a bar routine,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “That was not a fall we had to count, but in a competition like this, every single tenth counts. We ended up counting a 9.825 instead of probably a 9.900, so that wasn’t devasting, but it was like the first break of the meet. And then we went to beam … and we counted a fall there.”
A lackluster vault rotation didn’t help the cause, either. Karas and sophomore Emma McLean were the only gymnasts to hit above a 9.8000, with a 9.9000 and 9.8375, respectively.
“We just did not vault anything near what we’re capable of vaulting,” Plocki said. “There was no one error that made the difference, it was a combination of things.”
Even though the floor scores saw improvement, the damage had been done. The Wolverines knew in the last rotation that mathematically, a berth to the Super Six wasn’t an option. Their season was over.
As Plocki put it: “Just not our night.”