Crisler Arena had a different kind of crowd Friday night. Instead of the goofy antics of the raucous Maize Rage, the gym was filled with young girls. The typical fan seemed to be a young gymnast hoping to one day wear the block ‘M.’
But it was in front of this atypical crowd that the Michigan women’s gymnastics team opened its 2005 campaign with a win over No. 10 Nebraska.
Despite a few mental errors and the partial absence of its star gymnast –— senior Elise Ray — in three events, the women’s gymnastics team leaped out to a good start by defeating the Cornhuskers, 195.900-194.200. Nebraska sophomore Kristi Esposito took first place overall, with a score of 39.075.
“I’m really excited because usually at a first meet there are a lot of nerves,” senior Chelsea Kroll said. “And there are some mistakes ( a team) has just because of that. It was really important we came out with a win, and I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Michigan appeared to be in cruise control for much of the meet but hit a roadblock during its last event — the floor exercise. Junior Jennifer Deiley and sophomore Lindsey Bruck fell during their last passes — a rare occurrence for the two. Their scores dropped dramatically as a result.
“We had a couple of mental mistakes that were pretty fluky, and I don’t think we’ll see them again,” coach Bev Plocki said. “That being said, I think it’s exciting to know that we did as well as we did, and we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
The minor technical aspects of a routine, as well as the more noticeable slips and falls that can cost a team crucial tenths of a point are two of the areas that could use work.
Plocki mentioned that the team looked a little nervous on the beam, which she believed may have contributed to the occasional wobbles that disrupted the flow of a good routine. She also stated that the team needs to work on skills such as dismounts and landings.
At the beginning of the season, Plocki’s main concerns were with the vault and uneven bars — the events she said the team has the least depth in. She believed the team’s performance in these events would be tantamount to the outcome of the meet. But on Friday night, the Wolverines posted their two highest overall scores in those events: 49.200 in the vault and 49.150 in the uneven bars.
“We did a team bar set Monday in the gym and we struggled,” Kroll said. “To come out of it today and everyone hit their bar set, that was a really big victory.”
The Wolverines got things started on the vault and dominated the event, taking first, second and third. Deiley led Michigan by posting an impressive 9.90 score on her vault.
“Vault really relaxes me because it is one of my better events,” Deiley said. “After doing well, it builds the momentum for the rest of the meet.”
During the second rotation, Michigan out-scored Nebraska in the uneven bars. Ray made her only appearance of the night on the uneven bars and scored an impressive 9.925 — the highest individual score of the evening.
The former Olympian appeared in just the uneven bars because she is nursing two sore shoulders — a result of previously dislocating both shoulders. Plocki hopes to add Ray to one more event each week, but she pointed out that the season is still young and there is no hurry to rush Ray back into the full slate of events.
The Wolverines also took two individual first- place honors on floor and beam. Bruck recorded a 9.900 on the balance beam to take first on her way to a second-place finish overall in the meet with a score of 38.800. Kroll finished first in the floor exercise bringing the crowd of 3,366 to its feet.
“I was really excited,” Kroll said. “The crowd was really interactive with me, and I love that. It just made everything flow a lot easier.”