After a season of ups and downs, the Michigan women’s
gymnastics team is finally right where it wants to be: competing
for the program’s first national championship. Michigan has
made the trip to Nationals before — it has qualified for the
meet in each of the last 11 seasons — but has never come up
with the illusive first-place trophy.

Some of the keys to the team’s success this weekend could
be its experience and the tough schedule it has competed in this
season. Michigan coach Bev Plocki believes that, for a team
competing in nationals for the first time, it is easy to get caught
up in the excitement and not fully concentrate on the task at hand.
But this year’s team has as much experience as any of
Plocki’s teams in the past.

“For the majority of the team, they’ve been here
before,” Plocki said. “They’ve been through it
and they’re more able to mentally prepare for it.”

Adding to this experience is the fact that Michigan had a
grueling schedule this season that included the likes of No. 5
Alabama, No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 UCLA. Plocki feels that the
schedule will benefit the team this weekend.

“The first couple years when we got to Nationals, it was
all brand-new teams we had not seen all season, and I think our
kids felt like they were the outsiders who didn’t belong
there,” Plocki said.

Michigan has already competed against six of the 11 teams it
will face off against tomorrow.

Another factor that might contribute to the team’s success
is the rotation of events. Ideally, Plocki said she would like to
start on the vault and end the competition on the floor exercise.
Plocki said the reason for this is that, historically, the judging
on floor exercise starts out tight and then gets more lenient as
the meet goes on. This is never done intentionally. It usually
occurs because, early in the meet, the judges have to allow
themselves room to give scores for better performances later in the
meet.

The one event that most teams would not like to start or finish
on is the balance beam. It is difficult to compete in an event that
requires so much control at times when excitement and adrenaline
are at their peak.

At regionals, Michigan had the bad luck of ending on the floor
exercise. But rather than faltering under the pressure, Michigan
responded with an incredibly clutch performance. The Wolverines
earned the highest score on the beam of any team in the
competition, and it propelled them to a qualifying score of
196.375.

Due to Michigan’s range of performances this season,
Plocki said it would be difficult to predict how the team will
perform this weekend.

“We’re prepared physically,” Plocki said.
“The question for us throughout the season is: Mentally and
emotionally, which team is going to show up?”

Plocki did make one prediction, however. “If the team that
competed at Big Tens shows up again on Thursday night, I predict
that we have a very strong chance of qualifying to
Friday.”

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