For a team that recorded the highest score in the nation two weeks ago, losing to a team ranked four spots behind them wasn’t exactly expected.
But for the No. 8 Michigan women’s gymnastics team, that’s exactly what happened. The loss came at the hands of No. 12 Nebraska, who stands undefeated this season with a 3-0 record. After the Wolverines suffered a season-low vault total last week against Illinois, and barely managed to scrape out a win, troubles in the event contined to plague the team this weekend. But this time, it sentenced them to their first loss of the season, 196.875-196.525.
Michigan began the meet on an event that would end up being its second-best of the night — the uneven bars. Senior Paige Zaziski led the squad with a 9.875, finishing in a tie for second with the Cornhuskers’ Taylor Houchin. Freshman Lauren Farley was next with a 9.850 for fourth.
Out of the remaining four gymnasts, senior Brianna Brown and sophomore Polina Shchennikova recorded 9.825s, while junior Olivia Karas and freshman Syd Townsend rounded out the rotation with a 9.800 each. These scores would amount to the Wolverines’ most consistent rotation of the night and a final score of 49.175.
“We are a good bar team, but we’re equally as good on the other three events as well,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “I expect that all four events are going to be consistent.”
The next rotation was anything but consistent. With an overall lackluster vault score of 48.875, Michigan again found itself outnumbered in the top five.
Zaziski claimed another 9.850 for a third-place finish, while freshman Sydney Townsend was the only other gymnast to break the top five with a 9.800. But two scores of 9.775, one 9.675 and a 9.275 were less than a point away from sentencing the Wolverines to their worst vault rotation of the year.
“I’m a little bit disappointed. I think that we underperformed in a couple of places, and Nebraska is too good of a team to be able to do that and think that you’ll be able to come away with a victory,” Plocki said. “We did poorly on vault … We were not at our best, but we did well enough on the other three events. But you can’t afford to do that on vaulting. We come out against Ohio State and rocked vault, and two weeks since, we haven’t been able to replicate that and I’m not really sure why.”
The following floor rotation was a highlight for Michigan, particularly from Emma McLean. The junior earned Michigan’s only event title of the night with a 9.950, and junior Olivia Karas followed with a 9.875 to tie for second.
But again, mishaps nagged the Wolverines. A 9.175 from senior Lauren Marinez on floor, combined with the rough patch on vault, was enough to deter Michigan from a chance at the top spot.
On the beam, that trend continued. While Zaziski, senior Brianna Brown and senior Lauren Marinez each scored a 9.850 to tie for third, it wasn’t enough to save the Wolverines from their first loss of the season.
“The routines are there, the talent and the ability are there, but it’s being able to dig down in your gut and pull out what you’re capable of doing under any circumstances,” Plocki said. “If we want to do well in the postseason, we’re going to have to learn how to fight and dig down and be able to get ourselves to our best each time we’re getting ready to perform. Right now, these past two weeks, I’m just not sure what the issue was or why we didn’t perform up to our capability.”
Michigan doesn’t have a lot of time to figure it out, because even though the postseason is still a few months away, conference competitiors Maryland and Michigan State are coming up within the next two weeks.
And even if this team did tally the highest score in the nation two weeks ago, it hasn’t been the same since.