One down, two to go. The Michigan women’s gymnastics team heads to Nebraska this weekend for its second meet of the postseason. The No. 8 Wolverines — who won the Big Ten crown two weeks ago — will compete in the NCAA Regional Championships.
Senior Elise Ray believes that the regionals are a little bit harder, because it’s the meet between Big Tens and nationals.
“It’s sort of a stepping stone, but it’s like a really important stepping stone,” Ray said. “So it’s a little bit tough, mentally, to get prepared for, but we’re working really hard as a team.”
The Wolverines toughest competition will likely be host and Big 12 champion No. 6 Nebraska, but they will also face the Pac-10 runner-up No. 18 Arizona, No. 19 Missouri, Arizona State and Illinois.
“I think Nebraska will be our biggest competition,” Ray said. “I think they had kind of a rough start this year, but they really picked up their game. I think it will be kind of a battle between the two of us.”
The Wolverines defeated Nebraska 195.900-194.200 in Michigan’s home opener on Jan 7. But Nebraska has steadily improved since then, and Michigan learned at the Big Ten Championships not to underestimate their competition.
“(Big Tens) proves that we can’t take advantage of any team or think that we’re better than any team, because,” Ray said. “Once you’re out in competition everything’s fair game, so we have to be on,” .
At the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City on March 26, the Wolverines had some trouble on beam, and the troubles carried into their final rotation, the floor exercise. This caused the meet to be closer than they expected. This Saturday at regionals, Michigan will start the meet on balance beam.
“I think Big Tens was a good meet,” sophomore Lindsey Bruck said. “We struggled on beam and floor a little bit, but it made us really think and come back into the gym and regain our concentration. We’ve done a lot of team beam this week, which is just kind of like a meet situation, and I think we’re ready to go out and hit.”
Michigan has not overlooked the importance of starting off well at regionals.
“We haven’t started on beam at all this year, so I think that it’s going to be a really good change for us,” senior Lauren Mirkovich said. “And we wanted to practice it so that we can really focus in on that during the meet. I think it can get us off to a very strong start, and we’ll carry on from there.”
The Wolverines must place in the top two to be guaranteed a spot at the NCAA National Championships in Auburn, Ala., April 21-23, but they’re not thinking about that.
“We’re aiming to go out there and win so we don’t have be to worried about it,” Ray said. “We don’t want another Big Tens where everyone’s worried, so that’s going to be our goal — to go out there and win it.”