With the outcome of the meet in her hands, senior Olivia Karas stood in the corner of the floor with one hand on her hip and the other covering her face.
Her Madonna-inspired routine brought the crowd at Crisler Center to its feet. Her teammates rushed the floor to hug her, and parents in the stands screamed and clapped. The score flashed — a 9.950 — and the No. 10 Michigan women’s gymnastics team (6-2 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) had defeated No. 13 Nebraska (3-1, 2-0) 196.500-195.700.
Despite winning the meet, the Wolverines had their share of struggles.
Stuck landings eluded Michigan on the vault. Just two gymnasts, freshman Abby Brenner and Karas, earned scores at or above a 9.800. The Wolverines scored a 48.775 on the first rotation, and trailed the Cornhuskers by .175.
“We did really nice, big, pretty vaults with two-tenth hops on the landings,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “We have got to fix (the landings).”
In her anchoring spot on vault, freshman Natalie Wojcik launched herself into the air and, for the first time this season, landed with her bottom-side on the mat. Her score was a 9.325.
Stepping up to the uneven bars after her first fall, Wojcik was composed and confident. When it came time for her dismount, she released the bar, flipped twice in the air and stuck the landing. The judges awarded her a 9.925, the highest score of the night on bars.
“She learned a lot from tonight,” Plocki said. “She learned you can put the past in the past. That’s what college gymnastics is.”
Falls followed the Wolverines to their other rotations, where junior Lexi Funk fell off the beam and stumbled on one of her tumbling passes during floor. These mistakes forced the other gymnasts in the lineup to score big on their routines. In addition to Karas’ performance, Wojcik, Brenner and senior Emma McLean combined to earn the four highest scores on floor of the meet.
Sophomore Anne Maxim debuted in the lineup for the Wolverines and swung her way to a 9.825 on bars. She also performed an exhibition vault, flipping over the table and sticking her landing to receive a 9.825.
“I’m super excited and proud of her,” Plocki said. “She’s what I call a meet baby. She steps it up, she’s that person who gets better with the meet adrenaline. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she sees more spots in more lineups.”
Michigan’s performance may not have been what it was hoping for, but the mistakes made will allow the team to grow and improve as the season progresses.
“We got better and better throughout the meet,” Plocki said. “I’m really thrilled with how they all did. We still have so much room for improvement, but this whole year we’ve been choosing to look at the good side of things, and we’re gonna choose to look at the things that we learned that will help us down the road.”