It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … high-flying gymnast? Yes, that’s correct, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team is back and in familiar territory.

In what seems to be an annual occurrence, there is already a lot of talk about the potential of this year’s team. For the sixth consecutive season the Wolverines are ranked in the top 10 nationally according to the coaches top 25 poll.

“When you are one of the teams that is ranked in the top 10, it’s exciting, it’s something to talk about, it’s an expectation to live up to,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.

Last year’s squad began the season ranked third, but finished just a disappointing fifth at NCAAs. Many of the key gymnasts from that team are back, including senior captain Janessa Grieco, junior captain Elise Ray and junior Calli Ryals, each of whom were All-Americans last year. Ryals also ended the year ranked as the No. 1 gymnast in the country. To supplement the returning athletes, Plocki also brought in an impressive recruiting class. The three freshmen are Rachel Colon (Brightwaters, N.Y.), Becca Clauson (St. Paul, Minn.), and Jenny Deiley (Dayton, Minn.).

“I’ve got two freshmen that if you had a duplicating machine, I’d love to duplicate them two or three more times over,” Plocki said. “They’re fun to work with, they’re very coachable, and I think all those will make for an enjoyable season.”

The tumblers leap into action tomorrow when they host Ohio State. The meet will be historic for several reasons. First of all, it will be the first time that Michigan has ever begun the season against a Big Ten opponent. Secondly, and more importantly, it will give the Wolverines a chance to extend their amazing Big Ten winning streak to 39 games.

“We’re very proud of that streak and proud of our dominance in the Big Ten,” Plocki said. “It’s something that we have really prided our program on.”

Last year Michigan beat the Buckeyes twice, once in a dual meet and once at the Big Ten Championships. Ohio State had a down year, ending the season wit a 6-16 record.

“I think when you’re early in the season like this, you (have to) go out there ad hit routines,” Plocki said. “You have to be consistent.”

The Wolverines will look to shake off some of the rust that they showed at the intrasquad last month. The wining score was 161.625, well below a good score in regular competition. Part of the lackluster performance was due to the fact that the team was nursing early injuries.

“I think that the kids that are healthy have progressed and have gained a lot of confidence and are ready to go,” Plocki said. “We’ve had a couple of setbacks injury wise, but that’s the name of the game.

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