Michigan falls to Utah in first season-opening loss since 2009

Senior Talia Chiarelli earned performer of the meet honors for the Wolverines in Salt Lake City.

Senior Talia Chiarelli earned performer of the meet honors for the Wolverines in Salt Lake City. Buy this photo
Zoey Holmstrom/Daily
Sunday, January 8, 2017 - 8:03pm

For the past 13 years, Utah has had a perfect record against the Michigan women’s gymnastics team. That trend continued on Saturday, as the Wolverines lost their first season opener since 2009. However, Michigan coach Bev Plocki described the showdown as a perfect start for the team.

“Had we had an uncharacteristically great meet, I think that people would have been pretty satisfied with what they are doing,” Plocki said. “I think it would have negatively affected us down the road.”

With plenty to improve upon in the upcoming season, the seventh-ranked Wolverines fell to the sixth-ranked Utes, 196.625-195.525, in Salt Lake City.

Three freshman — Maddy Osman, Polina Shchennikova and Lexi Funk — got a taste of national championship-caliber competition facing Utah in their collegiate debuts. The three competed in front of over 14,000 people, with Osman in the lineup for vault and floor, Shchennikova in bars and Funk on the beam.

Despite the loss, the meet had no shortage of highlights for Michigan. Senior captain Talia Chiarelli had a stellar performance on the vault, floor and beam with scores of 9.850, 9.800 and 9.850, respectively. Her scores earned her a nod as performer of the meet for the Wolverines.

Although junior Paige Zaziski had some hiccups early on in the meet, she bounced back, with an impressive routine on the beam. The Wolverines followed her lead, putting together a solid overall rotation.

The 2016 Big Ten Champion on bars, junior Brianna Brown kicked off the season with a strong start, finishing as Michigan’s top scorer in the event with a 9.850. She followed it up with a strong performance on beam, scoring a 9.825.  

Sophomore Emma McLean and senior Nicole Artz also had standout showings in the meet. McLean earned a career-high vault score with a 9.850 and performed an exciting floor routine that secured her a 9.825. Six-time All-American Artz earned a team-high score of 9.875 for her floor routine.

Plocki, who is in her 28th season at the helm, attributed Michigan’s opening loss to the young nature of her team, which is still learning the ropes of the college stage. 

“Until the freshmen gain more confidence and competitive experience, there’s bound to be a few mistakes here and there,” Plocki said.

Though Utah continued its streak, the Wolverines can take away the competitive experience of the meet heading into this week’s practices, as they prepare for their upcoming quad meet against Ohio State, Washington and Kent State next weekend.