Prior to its match-up against archrival Michigan State, one might assume the women’s gymnastics team would spend a week with a no-nonsense attitude.

Maybe next year.

Before Saturday’s 196.475-196.150 win over the 25th-ranked Spartans, the team took a different route of preparation than it normally does.

In the week leading up to the meet – in which Michigan recorded its highest score of the season – there was just one thing the team was focused on: having fun.

“I talked to the team last week about how they were caring too much, were trying too hard and were over-performing,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “We worked all week on lightening up and making things fun. We played games, did things to relax and our goal was to solely focus on having fun.”

Apparently, a good time is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Michigan’s new attitude was the reason it failed to fall into a traditional trap – scoring significantly worse in one event than the other three. Instead of being afraid to fall or make a mistake, the Wolverines had fun and scored a 49.000 or more in all four events, a feat Michigan had accomplished just once prior to this meet.

“I’m just really excited,” Plocki said. “As a coach, when you feel like there is a problem, you go make changes in practice. And the very best thing is that they work and you see results on floor.”

After a poor showing at No. 5 Utah the weekend before, Plocki’s decision to take a more laid-back approach shows why Michigan has advanced to the last 15 NCAA Championships.

“This new attitude helped us so much,” sophomore Tatjana Thuener-Rego said. “We put less pressure on ourselves because we weren’t enjoying gymnastics. We were much more confident in the end. Knowing that we can go out there, have fun and still perform well is like having best of both worlds.”

For Thuener-Rego, it was just another day at the gym. The Miami native finished first in the vault and uneven bars, second in balance beam and third in floor exercise. And her career-best all-around score of 39.500 resulted in her fourth all-around title of the season.

“I was just out there having fun,” Thuener-Rego said.

With all-around gymnast Nellie Kippley out, Plocki had to call on others to step up. And senior Carol McNamara and junior Katie Lieberman did exactly that. Both excelled in Kippley’s absence on floor and bars. But the moment of the night belonged to senior Clare Flannery, who received her first medal ever, a second-place finish on balance beam (9.825).

“It’s so exciting for me,” Flannery said. “I fell last week, so I was really pumped to come back and I hit a good routine tonight.”

Flannery’s coach shared her excitement.

“Clare has really come along in her gymnastics career,” Plocki said through the athletic department. “She’s come through in such a big way. She did a great exhibition on bars tonight and had a great performance on beam. I’m so excited for her to get this chance in her senior year and have all her hard work pay off. It’s huge.”

This new fun-loving perspective has put Michigan in great shape leading into Friday’s showdown with No. 2 Georgia.

“We have to be able to do the same thing in front of 10,000-11,000 people in Georgia,” Plocki said. “If we can replicate our performance from this week, then I will be more apt to say we have turned the corner.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.