Against most teams, a 9.90 is good enough for at least a top-three finish in the event.
At least that’s what Michigan junior Carol MacNamara hoped after she posted the impressive score in the No. 9 Wolverine’s opening event, vault.
But the score didn’t hold up. Michigan senior Jenny Deiley followed suit and posted a 9.95, and MacNamara finished fourth behind Deiley and Georgia’s Kelsey Ericksen and Courtney Kupets, who all tied for first. Led by Deiley and MacNamara, the Wolverines came out of vault tied with No. 1 Georgia.
Michigan continued to compete well against the reigning national champions, but eventually they fell short in a valiant effort, losing to the Bulldogs, 197.625-197.100, on Saturday night at Crisler Arena.
“We didn’t win the meet, but for us this was a huge stepping stone, to be able to put four events together in the same competition,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Georgia has been the number one team in the country all season long, and we came within five tenths – basically a fall. I think that we’re on our way up. We still definitely have room to improve. We want to do that. It was a great sign tonight, to see that competitive drive in my team, that they were able to step it up and rise to the level of competition.”
The night was not without its bumps in the road, but the Wolverines put up incredible performances under pressure that made those bumps nearly insignificant. After a fall in the fifth spot on beam, All-American Lindsey Bruck mounted the apparatus and executed a nearly flawless routine to earn a 9.900 and place third behind the Bulldogs’ Kupets and Katie Heenan, who both scored 9.950s.
“That’s part of the beauty of being part of a team,” Plocki said. “One person can have an off night one night, and the rest of the team can say, ‘Hey, we’ve got your back, don’t worry about it.'”
Then it was MacNamara’s turn to take back the spot light. After an early fall in the floor lineup, every Wolverine had to be on target. MacNamara bested a string of clutch performances, earning her second 9.900 on the night and tying Georgia’s Kelsey Ericksen for second behind Kupets.
“She’s been awesome,” Plocki said of MacNamara. “Carol and (sophomore) Nellie (Kipley) often do not get a lot of the kudos because they’re not all-arounders, but both of those two have been putting up very valuable scores. Carol (wasn’t) not feeling so hot (Saturday) night so for her to do that even when she’s not feeling so good is just a sign that she’s a real competitor.”
Kipley posted three solid scores of 9.8 or better on the way to Michigan’s season-high score.
Despite the loss, it was still an exciting meet for the 3,227 fans in attendance. Former Olympian Kupets posted a 39.8, the second highest all-around score by any gymnast this season. The Georgia freshman won every event, averaging a 9.95 and earned a perfect 10 from one judge on the uneven bars.
“It’s pretty amazing, I guess,” Kupets said. “It’s a pretty high all-around score, but I just take it event by event, and it’s more fulfilling to me to have that great routine than to have that all-around score.”
With three all-around competitors who posted scores of 39.500 or higher, Georgia is tough competition. But the Wolverines may have one more shot at the Bulldogs at the National Championships.
“I really think our team is stepping up,” MacNamara said. “We’re coming together, and there’s a fire in us. We’re starting to get to that drive for the top. We’re right up there with them in every event. I think it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.”