With only a 0.150-point difference headed into the last event Saturday, the No. 7 Michigan women’s gymnastics team knew it had to pull a strong performance on the floor to secure a win at its home opener against No. 9 Georgia. To do that, the Wolverines had to set aside miscues from earlier in the meet — and they did just that.
Four Wolverines scored a 9.900 or above on the floor exercise, propelling Michigan to its final score of 196.925, trumping the Bulldogs’ 195.200. Among these gymnasts were senior Briley Casanova and freshman Olivia Karas, both of whom achieved career-high scores on the floor, a 9.900 and 9.950, respectively.
Karas started strong on the vault, earning the highest score of a 9.900, and took first in the event. After making mistakes on the bars and beam, she made a tremendous comeback on the floor event to tie for first with a score of 9.95 with junior Nicole Artz.
“That’s what happened tonight, we had mistakes,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “But the other five were able to come through and do what we needed to do for the team. That’s part of learning the college way. I think this was a great learning experience for her.”
Artz’s contributions in all areas of the meet propelled Michigan to the win as she matched her previous career high on the floor with a 9.950, tying with Karas. Artz also walked away with three more achievements, including being the all-around champion with a score of 39.450, and tied junior Talia Chiarelli for first in the balance beam exercise with a score of 9.875. Artz also tied for first with Georgia’s Sydney Snead on the uneven bars with a score of 9.900.
“Nicole is a kid on our team who works hard every day,” Plocki said. “She never takes shortcuts, and she works just as hard in the classroom. She’s a tremendous student and a tremendous athlete. She leads by example. She works hard, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I think that’s what endears her to everybody and makes them want to follow her as a leader.”
Chiarelli also spent some time on the podium, earning a third-place finish on the floor with a 9.925 and a second place finish on the vault with a 9.875. Her consistency and strong performances helped Michigan maintain its lead over Georgia and keep a hold on its undefeated season.
“I don’t really think about personal too much,” Chiarelli said. “As a team, we just wanted to have another great meet. We came off of a great meet in Cancun (Mexico) last week, so we just wanted to stay consistent and keep the energy up and fix a few of the smaller things.”
Despite initially trailing Georgia after the first event, the Wolverines made a solid return while on rotations for the bars and beam, establishing a small lead they would maintain for the rest of the meet. Despite the win, Michigan had small mistakes and bobbles, particularly on beam, that need attention — not a single Wolverine scored a 9.900 or higher during that event.
“This was a great result with a win against a tremendous program, but we also came away with a lot of things we need to work on,” Plocki said. “I think they know that, they understand that, and we’re ready to go back in the gym Monday and get to work.”