Good teams get frustrated when things don’t go as planned. Great teams do something about it.
The Michigan women’s gymnastics team is a great one, and it delivered a medicating performance for its avid fans on Friday, beating Northern Illinois (5-7) 196.65-192.825. The score was a season high for the Wolverines (7-4), who in the past two meets teetered on the edge of mediocrity.
“They’re working hard every day,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “They know what areas they need to improve on, and we’ve been working both on the physical aspect and the mental aspect of what they’re doing out here, and slowly but surely it’s getting better.”
Getting better is a staggering understatement. The Wolverines were on fire, collectively posting nine separate season-high scores. Sophomore Chelsea Kroll was one of the main reasons for the impressive performance. Kroll set season highs on vault, bars, and beam. Her performances on bars and beam were also career-bests.
“I was really confident because I did really well in practice all week,” Kroll said. “I kind of had a feeling.”
Once again, bars proved to be a challenge for the Wolverines, who posted a disappointing 48.450. While this might be reason for concern, Plocki kept a strong poker face.
“Even though bars was still the low point of the meet for us, it was better,” Plocki said “We counted one fall instead of three, which is a big improvement on that event.”
To get a feel for how the event went for the Wolverines, one needs to look no further than how it fared for junior Calli Ryals. Ryals, who ended last year ranked as the No. 1 gymnast in the country, was uncharacteristically rusty on bars, posting a sickness-inducing 9.05. But she came back firing on all cylinders. She started the turnaround by balancing her way to a 9.9 on beam. The real story of the night for Ryals was her floor routine, in which she scored a scorching 9.975, including a 10 from one of the judges.
“The bars was kind of a fluke thing,” Ryals said. “Sometimes, it’s kind of hard for me to pick it up after something bad goes wrong, so it was good.”
Freshman Jenny Deiley also carried her share of the load, winning the second all-around title of her career with a personal best 39.550 and also taking the vault title.
The solid all-around performance could not have come at a better time for the Wolverines, who begin a two-week road trip that will pit them against No. 2 Utah and No. 12 Denver.
“At Denver, we’re going to have to put four events together,” Plocki said. “Utah is a fun place to compete, but it’s also a very challenging place to compete.”
And Plocki likes the team’s chances.
“We’ve worked hard over there the last couple of weeks, and if we can maintain what we’re doing on the other three events and get through bars without counting a fall, we’ll be right where we need to be to be competitive with anybody.”