In most sports, team performance is evaluated by wins and
losses. But in gymnastics this is not necessarily the case.

Entering Friday’s meet with Alabama, the Michigan
women’s gymnastics team had lost two consecutive meets. But
more importantly, Michigan had performed poorly during both
defeats.

On senior night at Crisler Arena on Friday, Michigan suffered
its third-straight defeat at the hands of Alabama,
197.025-197.725.

But this loss did not hurt as badly as the last two. Instead, it
was a positive step for the Wolverines. Michigan’s team score
of 197.025 was its second-highest output of the season.

“This was definitely a confidence booster going into Big
Tens,” said junior Elise Ray, who captured second place in
the all-around competition.

During the last two meets, Michigan made costly mistakes that
forced the team to unusually low scores. But on Friday, the
team’s execution was back to the level it has been at for the
majority of the season.

Coach Bev Plocki said she was pleased that the team was able to
end the regular season on a strong note.

“It was the first meet in several when we didn’t
count any major breaks,” Plocki said. “We had a fall
here and there, but the other five routines were strong enough that
it didn’t really affect us that much.”

Even though Michigan was in need of a strong performance, the
pressure did not show in the team’s body language before the
meet. During warm-ups, the team looked loose and relaxed, shedding
bright smiles and laughing.

“I think the past few meets we’ve been really
tense,” senior Calli Ryals said. “Today we just told
ourselves we have to relax and have fun.”

Michigan began the meet on the vault, where it compiled a team
score of 49.100. Next they moved on to the uneven bars, where
junior Chelsea Kroll started things off with a strong performance,
earning a 9.850. Freshman Lindsey Bruck and junior Lauren Mirkovich
each landed scores of 9.825. Ryals came through for her team,
sticking her landing and scoring a 9.925. Ray imitated her teammate
with a 9.925 of her own to close out the event.

On the beam, Michigan got strong efforts from Kroll (9.875),
Bruck (9.825), Clauson (9.825) and sophomore Jenny Dieley (9.775).
One of Michigan’s few mistakes came when Ryals fell during
her routine. With the pressure on, Ray followed Ryals with a nearly
flawless performance and scored a 9.925.

“I kind of change my focus,” said Ray of competing
after a teammate has fallen. “I tell myself that my team
needs me, and that fires me up.”

Michigan ended the competition on the floor exercise, where it
earned a team score of 49.350.

This was a special night for the three graduating seniors on
Michigan; undergraduate coach Alison Rudisi, Christine Mantilia and
Ryals. The three were honored prior to the meet with video
highlights of their careers at Michigan. After the meet, Ryals said
that it hadn’t quite hit her yet that she would never perform
at a home meet again.

“I think I’ll feel the impact of it more once the
season is over,” Ryals said.

Michigan will move on to Minnesota next weekend to compete for
the Big Ten championship.

“The goal is, you always want to peak at the postseason
championship meets, and hopefully that’s the direction were
headed,” Plocki said.

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