Freshman Jacey Vore found herself in a new and unfamiliar position in the bars lineup.
For one, she was in the lineup for the first time as a Michigan gymnast. She also held the anchor position, as she replaced senior Natalie Wojcik in the No. 1 Michigan women’s gymnastic team’s (3-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) bars lineup on Monday in a 198.025 – 197.650 win against No. 7 Minnesota (2-1, 0-1).
The Golden Gophers were also Michigan’s biggest challenge so far this year, so Vore found herself in a high pressure situation in the midst of a high pressure meet. However, Vore rose to the occasion, nailing a great routine and finishing off with a stuck dismount.
“Vore was going to compete exhibition, but Natalie had an off warmup,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “So we put (Vore) in there and she did an absolutely great job. To see a freshman go in during a meet like this, under pressure like this, and do the job she did was pretty amazing.”
The Wolverines started the meet on bars for the first time this season, while Minnesota began on vault. Michigan’s bars lineup competed well, with three scores of a 9.900 and two scores of a 9.850. The lineup was highlighted by Vore’s 9.900, which included a stuck dismount.
Meanwhile, the Gophers stuck three vaults in the middle of their rotation, capped by a perfect 10.0 by fifth-year senior Ona Loper. At the end of the rotation, Michigan was behind by 0.175, the first time it has trailed in a meet so far this season.
The Wolverines did not let Minnesota’s early lead last long, as the number one vaulting team in the country dominated the vault. The team stuck three vaults, and sophomore Naomi Morrison led the pack with an almost perfect 9.975. The Gophers had good routines on bars, but had to count two 9.800 scores, which ultimately propelled Michigan to a 99.075 – 98.900 lead halfway through the meet.
“A great team thrives on a great competition,” Plocki said. “When (Minnesota) does great and they get the energy, then we go over to vault and we thrive on that and do even better, it takes the wind out of your opponent’s sail. When you meet the level of expectation, you’re either going to rise to it or cave, and this team is able to rise to it.”
The Wolverines continued to rise to the challenge that Minnesota was giving them during the floor rotation. Michigan came out with high energy in every routine, and Morrison, junior Sierra Brooks and junior Gabby Wilson anchored the event with three 9.950s.
“Something special about this year is that our floor routines are very special to everyone,” Wilson said. “It’s so personalized, so it really helps when you’re tired in your last pass, but you really love your floor routine. I also think the fact that our routines are very high energy keeps the momentum going throughout the lineup.”
Meanwhile, the Gophers began to show some weaknesses on beam, with major deductions in three of its scoring routines. The Wolverines gained a sizable 0.800-point lead going into beam for the final rotation.
“It definitely takes a different kind of focus and energy into every single routine that’s on the beam,” Wilson said about competing on beam in the last rotation. “We have to keep the cool as the home team is on floor having a party, so I definitely think it’s a different mindset.”
Michigan performed well on beam, led by Brooks’s 9.950 as she debuted a new dismount. Minnesota also competed very well on floor, with sophomore Mya Hooten closing out the meet with another perfect 10.0. However, the Gophers’ efforts were not enough, as Michigan pulled away with the meet.
The Wolverines’ resilience was especially impressive amidst Minnesota’s home crowd support, but Michigan was able to use that to its advantage.
“I’ve always tried to teach my athletes that whatever energy there is in the arena, you take it as yours,” Plocki said “There was a great crowd for Minnesota, but we just tried to absorb that energy and pretend they were there for us.”
And, as the scoreboard indicated, the Wolverines did exactly that.