Performing before a large crowd always beats competing in front of thousands of empty seats. Michigan women’s gymnastics competed against Penn State on Friday in front of the fourth-largest crowd in its history (4,376 people) for the annual K-grams night at Crisler Arena.
Junior Jenny Deiley enjoyed the young fans. She was so enraptured by a conversation with a young fan, she had to be nudged by a teammate because she had missed being called up to the podium.
“The more fans you have — it’s always more fun to perform for everybody,” Deiley said. “It was definitely a treat to have everybody here.”
The support of the crowd inspired Deiley to have her best performance of the year. She finished first in the all-around (39.325) and tied for third on uneven bars (9.825), balance beam (9.800) and floor exercise (9.850). She also tied teammate freshman Katie Lieberman for second on vault (9.850).
“I was really pleased, just because I’ve had a couple of falls before — (one in) each meet,” Deiley said. “Finally, I had a meet where I was satisfied with my performance. But I have room to improve, still.”
Sophomore Lindsey Bruck also performed consistently, placing second (39.200) in the all-around and contributing to Michigan’s victory over Penn State, 196.075 to 194.550.
“Lindsey continues to be very solid,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “I think this also was her best night.”
The only complaint Plocki had about the Wolverines’ performance was on the floor exercise. They posted their lowest team score (48.875) on the event — where the Wolverines have the potential to be very competitive. Six competitors have posted a 9.800 or higher on the floor at some point this season.
“We’re taking turns at who’s going to miss a floor routine,” Plocki said. “We have not hit floor yet, and I think when we do finally put floor together, we’re going to be able to compete with the best of the best. We’re going to need to put it together the next two weekends because we will be competing against the best of the best, with Utah and UCLA.”
The Wolverines have the talent to post a stellar floor score with the return of former Olympian, senior Elise Ray, who has recently been bothered by a shoulder injury. On Friday, Ray competed in three events and placed first in all three.
“She’s a huge factor,” Plocki said. “Let’s see, bars — 9.900, beam — 9.925, floor — 9.900. She’s a big factor. She’s definitely a lead-by-example kind of a person when it comes to competition.”
Ray — who will return to the all-around competition on Friday against Utah — not only puts up big scores consistently but also carries with herself a composure that relieves tension for the younger competitors.
“She just exudes confidence,” Plocki said. “I think she’s calm under pressure. When other people see her just calm and going about her business and doing her thing, I think it relaxes other people. She’s just that kind of a competitor.”
Despite some misfortune on floor, the Wolverines pulled together and did what they had to do to beat Penn State.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Ray said. “We’ve had ups and downs. We competed less than a week ago, and that’s always really hard. We were a little tired but rallied everybody up and did our job.”
Plocki was thrilled with the team’s effort. She just hopes they will continue to improve as Michigan enters a tough part of its schedule over the next few weeks. The Wolverines face No. 1 Utah on the road on Jan. 28 and No. 2 UCLA at home Feb. 4.
“I’m very pleased,” Plocki said. “We’re getting a tiny bit better every week, which is better than not. This is a team that really doesn’t seem to let anything get in their way. There are no excuses. They know what they’ve got to do and they go out and do it.