Hampered by illness and injury, Wolverines fall in exhibition
In the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s first meet, it seemed as if everyone had some kind of ailment, be it a sports injury or the flu.
The Wolverines, who finished last season as the No. 6 team in the country, struggled in their exhibition meet on Sunday, losing to Eastern Michigan 194.050-183.350.
“I don’t like to make excuses,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki, who is beginning her 27th season at the helm. “But we’ve just had one thing after another to the point where we only put four people on floor.”
The Wolverines started off strong, with senior Briley Casanova achieving her career best on the vault with a score of 9.850. Anchored by Casanova and freshman Olivia Karas, who scored a 9.800, Michigan led after the first rotation.
In the second rotation, the Wolverines struggled, as both Casanova and junior Nicole Artz fell on their first attempts. Artz, a five time NCAA All-American, underperformed in Sunday’s matchup.
Artz suffered from viral meningitis but still managed to compete in three events.
“She was very ill and still not at 100 percent,” Plocki said. “She’s been training so much.”
Despite her strong start, Casanova did not compete in the floor event because of flu-like symptoms.
Michigan did not send a full team to the final event because of health issues. In fact, Karas was the only Wolverine to compete in every event and attain an all-around score.
“(Casanova) did great on vault, but quickly after that, the wind came out of her sails,” Plocki said. “She had a fall on vault and said (to me), ‘I don’t think I can do this.’”
Michigan made some mistakes in its routines, like when sophomore India McLeak stepped out of bounds during the floor event.
The Wolverines tried few new routines in the meet at Crisler Center, possibly due to the many injuries.
“(Casanova) was supposed to do a double layout on floor,” Plocki said. “Clearly with her not feeling well, we didn’t think that was a smart idea. That was the only super new skill. (Casanova and junior Talia Chiarelli) did a one-and-a-half on vault.”
In every event, Michigan had the top two gymnasts but also had the bottom gymnast, and in some cases the bottom two.
This inconsistency contributed to the Wolverines’ loss. The Eagles gymnasts, while only reaching the top three once, finished in the middle of the pack in each event — enough to win the exhibition.
Chiarelli, a junior captain, minimized the significance of this exhibition loss.
“It’s completely an outlier,” Chiarelli said. “A lot of people are injured right now, and sick.”
With most of the team either out or unable to perform to the best of its ability, Sunday’s performance was not indicative of Michigan’s true potential.
As the Wolverines head to winter vacation, they will look to become healthier by Jan. 2, when they travel to Cancun, Mexico for the Cancun Classic.
Michigan hopes the holiday cheer will be able to ease away the flu.