Achilles heel.

Never has one phrase so vividly illustrated a season.

The No. 9 Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s Achilles heel has been its inability to put together four strong rotations successfully in one meet.

Friday night, the ninth-ranked Wolverines scored a season-low 48.350 on the beam and lost the lead and the meet to conference foe Penn State, 195.900 to 195.525.

It’s the fifth time in six meets that the team has had one event that was substantially worse than the other three.

“We have to concentrate on the mental choreography that’s in their heads when they’re performing on beam,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.

The reason for the third-lowest score on any event this year for the Wolverines can be attributed to two falls. It was the second-straight meet that a Michigan gymnast fell on beam.

“You can’t be up there thinking ‘Don’t fall,’ ” Plocki said. “You have to be thinking aggressive, confident, technical things. You need to be telling your brain what you want your body to do.”

Two weekends ago, the Wolverines did well in three rotations but poorly on beam.

Three weekends ago, Michigan yet again did excellent in three rotations, yet had a subpar score on floor.

And in the first two meets of the year, the Wolverines posted scores of 48.250 and 48.225.

The achilles has also been a problem for Michigan physically.

The physical aspect refers to the thickest and strongest tendon in the human body. But it’s also the tendon that has been the grounds for two Wolverine injuries this season. Senior Lindsey Bruck and Sarah Curtis both suffered season-ending injuries to their Achilles tendon earlier this season.

“We have a very young team,” Plocki said. “The injuries we have had have impacted beam as much or more than any other event. We lost our top four kids on beam out of six, (so) you are bound to have some inconsistencies, but we just have to get back on track and work at building the confidence. Physically they are fine, mentally beam is the most mental event that we do.”

The Wolverines got off to a hot start Friday night, posting scores of 49.100 and 49.150 on vault and uneven bars, respectively.

On vault, sophomore Tatjana Thuener-Rego scored a career-best 9.900, and on the uneven bars, both Thuener-Rego and fellow sophomore Becky Bernard scored 9.900. On their fourth and final rotation, floor exercise, Michigan scored well again, led by junior Nellie Kippley who put up a career-best 9.875. But it was during the third rotation that the team’s Achilles heel kicked in and prohibited the Wolverines from moving into double-digits in wins for the year.

Although Michigan (1-2 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) lost for the first time in at least six years after leading following two rotations, the weekend did have some positives.

Thuener-Rego won her fifth straight bars title and third all-around of the season.

Bernard won her third bars title of the season and senior Carol McNamara had a season-best 9.850 on vault.

But in order for the Wolverines to continue to move up in the rankings, they will have to eliminate this Achilles heel.

“We have got to stop worrying about wining or losing and start performing and just do what we do,” Plocki said. “We have to rise to the level of competition.”

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