Wolverines sweep event titles in Maryland

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By Cindy Yu, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 8, 2015

The Michigan women’s gymnastics team felt right at home Saturday in its first meet at Maryland since 2008.

“The venue looked like a red version of Crisler,” said senior Sachi Sugiyama. “It felt very homey and comfortable.”

At the XFINITY Center in College Park, the fifth-ranked Wolverines defeated the Terrapins, 197.125-194.575, marking their highest road score of the season.

“I’ve never felt closer to a team before, and I’m very excited to see where this team chemistry will take us,” Sugiyama said. “It already is helping us.”

From the first event of the night, Michigan (4-0 Big Ten, 6-0 overall) set the bar high.

“From the beginning, they threw out a very tight score,” Sugiyama said. “We knew that we couldn’t give them any room to take a deduction and we used that as motivation … it really set a fire and kept us motivated throughout the entire meet.”

Junior Austin Sheppard set a career-best 9.925 to win the event, nailing her double front dismount. Sugiyama, freshman Brianna Brown and senior Brooke Parker each scored 9.900 to tie for second place. A late addition to the lineup, Parker replaced freshman Nichelle Christopherson after warm-ups to debut her first official routine on the event. After learning over the summer the same dismount Sheppard competes, Parker was able to improve her consistency on the event.

“It was pretty nerve-racking to be in the lineup for the first time,” Parker said. “I just went out there and did what I did in practice, and it turned out successful.”

Raised in nearby Lorton, Virginia, the captain had a cheering section of friends and family in the stands.

In the vault lineup, only five gymnasts competed in the five up, six count format. Sugiyama, sophomore Nicole Artz and sophomore Talia Chiarelli tied for first with matching totals of 9.875.

“We’re seeing some definite improvements and redemption of some landing errors (on vault),” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki.

At the halfway point, Michigan led Maryland (1-3, 1-5), 98.650-97.700.

The seniors led the team on floor exercise. Sugiyama and Parker placed in the top two with scores of 9.925 and 9.850, respectively.

Artz, the NCAA leader on floor, scored 9.725 after uncharacteristically stepping out of bounds on her first pass. Her mishap unfazed her on the balance beam, where she recorded a career-best 9.925 to win the event. Brown and junior Lindsay Williams tied for second with career-high 9.900s.

Michigan totaled 49.275 on the event to match its season-best from the previous week. The team has exceeded the 49.000 mark in all 20 out of 20 of their events this season.

Sugiyama, Brown and Artz have also continued their streak of placing among the top three at every meet. Sugiyama led the team at this meet with a career-best 39.525 all-around score while Brown and Artz each scored 39.375. The trio currently ranks in the top three in the Big Ten and top 10 in the nation.