COLUMBUS — Before Saturday night’s meet, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team began its warmups as usual. What soon transpired would test the Wolverines’ will to win. Returning All-American senior Chelsea Kroll ruptured her achilles tendon during the team’s warmup on the floor, prematurely ending her season. As of now, it isn’t known whether or not Kroll will attempt to receive a medical redshirt.

“To start the meet with one of our veteran seniors (going) down on the touch warm-up with a ruptured achilles is a huge blow to everybody,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “You just want to sit down and cry and feel for her.”

But the Wolverines were able to hold back their tears and dominate the meet with a team score of 196.025, defeating No. 15 Maryland, No. 19 Minnesota and host Ohio State. Sophomore Lindsey Bruck finished first in the all-around competition with a score of 39.125 while junior Jenny Deiley took third, posting a 38.525. The win improves the team record to 4-0.

“I can’t believe how much the team pulled together,” Bruck said. “It was amazing how close we became.”

Michigan ended the meet with an exclamation point on the balance beam. The Wolverines boast the fifth-best team score on that event in the nation this season. Bruck tied for first with a score of 9.850 while sophomore Carol McNamara and senior Shanna Duggan both tied for third with scores of 9.825. Duggan drew praise from Plocki for her ability to fill in for Kroll at the last minute.

“(It’s) a definite sign of experience and leadership when you know you’re needed and you step up and you take care of business,” Plocki said. “That’s what she did for us.”

Duggan is a senior transfer from Central Michigan and was originally expected to add depth at the vault, which was her best event. With the injury to Kroll, Duggan may have to fill in at floor and beam for the rest of the season. But the former Chippewa looked solid in both events and actually scored better in them than she did on her vault. Duggan placed third on the beam but did not place on the floor exercise.

The rest of the Wolverines stepped up as well, especially on the uneven bars. The event has turned out to be one of Michigan’s strongest during its first two meets, despite being a liability at the beginning of the year. The team posted a score of 49.175 — the highest on any event — and took first, second and fourth, individually. The winner, senior Elise Ray, scored a 9.925 on the bars, her 13th straight score of 9.90 or better in the event.

Whether it was nerves or the injury to Kroll, Michigan struggled a bit out of the gate on its first event, the floor exercise. The team had some problems, including extra steps on landings and falling out of bounds.

“We still have a lot of things to clean up, and the girls know that,” Plocki said.

Plocki added that some landings were a little short or a little overrotated, which can cause a gymnast to take an extra step.

But juniors Deiley and Becca Clauson shined and took first and second, respectively, in the event, boosting the team’s score and leading the Wolverines to a slim lead after the first rotation.

Freshman Katie Lieberman was another bright spot for the Wolverines. The Lake Forest, Ill. native won her first individual title in the vault, tying Deiley for first place with a score of 9.875.

The Wolverines not only remained calm when facing adversity, but they also dominated top-25 competition despite drawing the worst rotation of the four teams. Michigan had to start the meet on the floor and end with the balance beam. The nerves at the beginning of the meet may have hurt the gymnasts’ ability to flow well with the music of their routine. The beam usually requires the most mental concentration and physical discipline, and gymnasts often have a hard time ending meets on the beam because they have already competed in three other events.

“I felt everything was against us tonight, and, in spite of all of that, (the team) just rocked,” Plocki said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

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