Despite loss, Wolverines turn in their best performance of the year

Ruby Wallau/Daily
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By Cindy Yu, For The Daily
Published January 27, 2013

On Saturday night, the No. 1 Michigan women’s gymnastics team showed consistency and improvement by recording its best road score of the season.

“What we’re doing currently is working really well for us,” said sophomore Sachi Sugiyama. “I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Michigan finished runner-up at the quad meet hosted at the Minnesota Sports Pavilion by a close margin, losing to No. 12 Minnesota, 196.800-196.775. No. 20 Central Michigan and Iowa State finished third and fourth, respectively.

“I am very proud of this team,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “I actually thought that this might have been the best performance of the season so far, even though the score didn’t reflect it.”

The captains – junior Joanna Sampson and senior Katie Zurales – led the team with second- and third-place finishes in the all-around. Sampson also took first in the uneven bars while Zurales tied for second on the balance beam.

The Wolverines started the meet with an impressive 49.100 on the uneven bars, and performed strongly despite a fall from freshman Lindsay Williams. The other five Michigan gymnasts recorded scores of 9.800 or better, dropping Williams’ 9.225 out of contention. Sampson led with a 9.850 while Sugiyama and senior Brittnee Martinez tied for second with 9.825s. Junior Shelby Gies and Zurales followed with a pair of 9.800s.

Michigan recorded another 49.100 on the balance beam for a team total of 93.200 – tying it with Minnesota for the early lead. Gies and Zurales scored identically yet again for second-place finishes on beam with 9.850’s. Junior Reema Zakharia was added to the beam lineup for the first time this season, and her score of 9.775 tied her career best.

After earning a 49.250 on the floor exercise, the Wolverines pulled ahead of the Golden Gophers by a slim 0.100 points going into the final rotation. Sugiyama led the team with a 9.875 followed by 9.850’s from Sampson, Zurales, and Zakharia.

In the final rotation, Michigan scored a season-best 49.325 on the vault, highlighted by Sugiyama capturing the event title.

“(Sugiyama) did all solid events and topped it off by sticking the landing on her vault,” Plocki said. “She nailed it cold. In a meet that was being judged rigorously, her vault was that good that they had to give it a 9.950.”

Zurales added a 9.875 on the vault, while freshman Briley Casanova and Sampson contributed 9.825s.

“The team was determined and they knew the meet was very close,” Plocki said. “They stepped up and had their best performance (on vault).”

Despite finishing the meet on a high note, the Wolverines were unable to hold on to their lead after Minnesota posted the top-five floor exercise scores of the meet and recorded a season-best 49.450 – narrowly edging Michigan out.

“We did really, really well,” Sugiyama said. “You know the scoring was kind of tight, but we deserved every tenth we got.”