The No. 1 Michigan women’s gymnastics team edged reigning Big Ten champion Nebraska on Saturday with a season-high score of 196.900-196.300.
Coming off a season-opening win at the Cancun Invitational against Brigham Young and Oregon State two weeks ago, Michigan (2-0) fueled its confidence at Crisler Center.
“We started out last weekend on a really high note, and we wanted to come back here and try to harbor the crowd and be able to repeat that performance,” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “We were even able to improve on it, and that was really important for us to know that last weekend wasn’t a fluke and we could come in and do it here as well.”
Junior captain Joanna Sampson captured the all-around title with a 39.400 and tied Nebraska’s Emily Wong for the floor exercise title with a 9.925. Senior captain Katie Zurales and sophomore Sachi Sugiyama won on the uneven bars with a 9.900.
The Wolverines earned a 49.000 to narrowly defeat the Huskers’ 48.950 in the first rotation on vault. Sugiyama led the team with a 9.825 followed by 9.800’s from Zurales, Sampson, and junior Stephanie Colbert. Junior Reema Zakharia contributed a 9.775 and freshman Briley Casanova made her home debut on vault with a 9.725.
Michigan increased its lead over Nebraska in the second rotation to 98.350-97.900. On uneven bars, the Wolverines recorded a season high on the rotation with a 49.350. Zurales and Sugiyama matched their career bests with a 9.900. The audience erupted in its loudest roar of applause of the night after Sugiyama stuck her full-in dismount. Junior Shelby Gies took third with a 9.875, senior Brittnee Martinez wowed the crowd with a huge straddle Tkatchev and stuck a double-layout dismount for a 9.850, and Sampson rounded out the top-five counted scores with a 9.800.
The Wolverines were able to score a 49.175 on balance beam despite a fall from Sugiyama. Zurales tied Wong for second with a 9.900 behind Nebraska’s Jennifer Lauer (9.950). Martinez contributed a 9.875 followed by Sampson’s 9.850, and Gies’ 9.825. After the third rotation, Michigan maintained its lead over Nebraska 147.525-146.975.
“On beam, we had a fall early in the lineup and we just stayed in our bubble and kept going,” Gies said. “I think that was a really good learning experience for us.”
Michigan finished off the meet strong, scoring its highest event total of the night (49.375) on the floor exercise. All six gymnasts competing scored above a 9.800. Senior Natalie Beilstein, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury from last year, led the team with an impressive 9.900.
“It felt really good,” Beilstein said. “I was actually really nervous. I’ve been really nervous for some reason but it was the only event I was doing tonight so I wanted to go out there and give the crowd a good show, and really start off our floor lineup right.”
On floor, Gies replaced Zurales – who felt pain in her shoulder following her performance on the beam – and scored a career-high 9.800 after not having competed floor for a number of years because of a knee injury prior to college.
“We have a lot more difficulty that we want to add to our routines as the season goes along, but our goal for this year was to come out really solid and clean and so far, we’ve been able to do that,” Plocki said.