In 1994, the Michigan women”s gymnastics team finally climbed up into the ranks of the elite. Michigan finished the season at 27-1, and placed fourth at the NCAA Championships.

Since that season, the Wolverines have never looked back. They have captured five Big Ten championships and have established themselves as perennial national championship contenders. But, the Wolverines will face a challenge this Saturday they have yet to conquer.

They will attempt to defeat Georgia in a regular season meet.

“I guess Georgia is kind of the monkey on our backs,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “I have come to expect the same thing from them every year. Whenever we compete, they put forth their best stuff. (Georgia coach Suzanne Yocula) takes pride in the fact that Michigan has never beaten Georgia during the regular season.”

Georgia has been a major obstacle for Michigan in the past decade. In all 12 regular season meetings between the two teams, Michigan has never won. In the all-time series between the schools, which includes postseason meets, Georgia holds a 25-1 advantage.

In 1996, Michigan finished sixth at the NCAA Championships, but Georgia finished third. In 1997, Michigan finished fourth, but the Bulldogs again finished third. In 1999, Michigan finished in second right, behind Georgia, which won the national championship. And last year, the Wolverines finished in sixth, while Georgia took third.

Once again, No. 4 Georgia has claimed its spot at the top of the gymnastics world, and once again, No. 8 Michigan faces the daunting task of competing against the squad. The Bulldogs are looking to maintain their perfect season record, while the Wolverines are looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to Florida this past Friday.

Prior to entering the toughest month of the season, Michigan was forced to absorb a tough loss to the Gators, a loss that ended its impressive four-meet winning streak, and one that put a halt to its building momentum.

Now, the Wolverines must find a way to regain that same momentum against one of the nation”s powers.

“Talentwise, we are extremely comparable to Georgia,” Plocki said. “But, they have been a premier team for decades, and we can”t expect to dominate against them. We must believe in ourselves.

“Our confidence level must go up. We have got to compete with confidence in our own routines in order to win.”

In the upcoming month, the Wolverines will face three top five teams Georgia, Utah and UCLA. Having already posted scores in the mid-196 range, Michigan has proven that it has the ability to compete with the nation”s elite.

But, Plocki feels that mental preparation has been lacking making it difficult for her team to succeed in big meets.

“If we can pull it out this weekend, it would do fantastic things for our confidence level,” Plocki said. “It would really help us against UCLA, at regional, and at nationals.

“At this point in the season, 90 percent of what we do is mental, while 10 percent is physical. We just have to make sure we are prepared and confident enough to do well.”

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