There is such a thing as being pleased with a loss, at least for the Michigan women’s gymnastics team. Sure, the ninth-ranked Wolverines definitely don’t like losing, aren’t used to it and aren’t going to make it a habit. But there were a lot of positives to take away from Friday’s 197.200 to 195.750 loss to No. 2 Georgia.

“Overall, I think I’m happy with how things went,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “I think it gave the kids a lot of experience.

“I knew for a lot of the kids they had no idea of what they were walking into.”

For a team that is still growing and definitely not yet back to full strength, it was an impressive showing. Senior captain and Big Ten co-Athlete of the Week Janessa Grieco and junior Calli Ryals were the only two Wolverines who had ever competed at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia before Friday. The Wolverines came back strong in the last two rotations, shaking off early jitters and a hostile and vocal crowd.

“It’s really, really overwhelming going in and competing against Georgia,” Ryals said.

Ryals placed second in the all-around while Grieco finished third, and freshman Becca Clauson had a career day. Clauson scored a 9.850 on both the vault and balance beam, and added a 9.925 on the floor.

But the Wolverines’ inexperience didn’t bode well for the team on its first road trip of the season.

“We did have a couple of mistakes, I think just from inexperience,” Plocki said. Michigan had a decent start, posting a team score of 48.900 on the uneven bars.

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs came up with a 49.300 on the vault during the first rotation to take an early lead.

The Wolverines went into the second rotation looking to make a run at Georgia, but had to count a fall because both freshman Jenny Deiley and sophomore Lauren Mirkovich failed to land their vaults. Plocki was still encouraged though.

“Only tallying one fall in the meet was a positive accomplishment,” Plocki said. “I think we’re pleased with the whole situation, and we’ll continue to improve.”

The third rotation saw the Wolverines start strong on the floor with three straight gymnasts posting career high scores. It set the stage for Ryals, who responded with a season best 9.950. Michigan made up ground as Georgia faltered a bit on the beam, but the Bulldogs’ final rotation on the floor proved to be too much, as they posted a meet-high 49.625.

Michigan only outscored Georgia on the beam. Not surprisingly, the biggest difference was on the bars, which was the Wolverines’ first event. From there, the gap between the teams steadily decreased, showing that the Wolverines were gaining confidence throughout.

“We don’t peak up until the end of the season,” Ryals said. “We definitely could give them a run for their money later in the season.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for Michigan, as it has to once again travel away from the friendly confines of Cliff Keen Arena to No. 4 Alabama’s home gym. The Wolverines hope that they learned something from this weekend – how to win on the road.

“We’ll continue to improve,” Plocki said. “Going into Alabama next weekend, I think we’ll be much better prepared mentally to handle it, because now they know what it’s like.”

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