On Feb. 23, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team went on the road into then-No. 5 Utah’s hostile environment and posted a season-low score.
So traveling to No. 2 Georgia’s even more intimidating environment, would the Wolverine’s once again fold under pressure?
Not this time.
On Friday, No. 12 Michigan proved it will be a team to be reckoned with come postseason.
The Wolverines put up their highest score of the season in a 197.875-196.500 loss to the Bulldogs.
“I’m excited about the way the team performed under this kind of pressure,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Our team really maintained its composure and even though we lost the meet, we are thrilled how we did.”
Pressure is an understatement of what the Wolverines had to deal with this weekend.
The Bulldogs are the two-time defending national champions with an arena atmosphere comparable to one at a football stadium, Plocki said. This meet was no exception – Georgia had 8,327 screaming fans in attendance.
So why didn’t the atmosphere get under the Wolverines’ skin?
That can be attributed to Plocki’s coaching. She has instilled a newfound attitude that revolves around having more fun.
“After the Utah meet, we talked about putting too much pressure on ourselves,” Plocki said. “So now we just relax and focus on what we are able to do.”
And the new outlook has already paid dividend. Friday marks the second-straight weekend Michigan has put up a season-high overall score on the road.
The Wolverines (2-2 Big Ten, 10-4 overall) were led by sophomore Huneth Lor who posted her career best all-around score (39.225) on her way to a third-place finish.
Sophomore Becky Bernard, after struggling in the middle of the season, put together her third-straight meet with all of her scores being 9.750 or higher. She also posted a season-high score on bars (9.925) to tie for second place.
The Wolverines’ star, sophomore Tatjana Thuener-Rego, finished fourth in the all-around (39.125), but feels that this was not her best showing.
“I can definitely do better,” Thuener-Rego said. “I can’t wait to go back to practice and show everyone that I can do better. But I am happy for the team that everyone pulled through and did really well. I am real proud of the team tonight.”
Michigan will most likely move up in the rankings because of their score, which was higher than their season average. More importantly, the high score will give the Wolverines the mentality they need to make a run at nationals.
“We have a lot more confidence going into Big Tens,” Thuener-Rego said. “These higher scores that we are getting will put us into better place for regionals, so that makes us really excited for nationals.”
It’s almost hard not to wonder where Michigan would be right now if senior Lindsey Bruck, freshmen Jordan Sexton and Sarah Curtis weren’t sidelined for the year with injuries.
Nonetheless, the team has found its identity.
“We started out the season feeling pretty good,” Plocki said. “But now our scores are coming around, we’re in the flow of competing and settling down. We are just performing the way we’re capable of performing.”