As each member of the No. 13 Michigan women’s gymnastics team took her turn on the floor, loud cheers of ‘Let’s Go Blue’ exploded from the lively crowd and echoed through Crisler Arena. And the Wolverines played off the hometown energy to triumph over Minnesota.
The team treated the raucous audience by hitting a season-high home tally in the 195.050-189.475 victory, sealing its 31st consecutive Big Ten win since losing to Penn State on Feb. 18, 2007.
“Big crowds always help our energy,” senior Sarah Curtis said. “It’s one thing when you have twelve people trying to generate a lot of energy, but when you have the entire stands that are cheering for you and getting into your music, it just gives a lot of motivation to keep going.”
Despite suffering from a few disappointing performances, coupled with uncharacteristically low scoring from judges on the floor and balance beam, Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 8-1 overall) took each of the individual event titles.
But just when it seemed as though the team had gained firm standing on the beam this season, its woes returned.
“I’m frustrated, because we train in the gym like we are a national championship-caliber program,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “(In practice) we’re doing everything that we can humanly do to train team beam, but for some reason I have a couple of individuals who are changing what they are doing every time they come to the competition.”
Curtis, who took the all-around crown and uneven bars title and reached the podium in all four other events, led the Wolverines’ sluggish scoring on the beam.
“I had the first meet tonight where I feel like I put everything together,” Curtis said. “Winning doesn’t matter to me as much as what our team is doing. It’s one of those things where you take each event one at a time, and if it happens to come together it does.”
While the beam was a sore subject for both teams — with two falls and a major falter for Michigan and five falls for the Golden Gophers — senior captain Kelsey Knutson paced the match by taking the event with a 9.875. Botterman carried the Wolverines through some questionable scoring on the floor routine to win with a final score of 9.875.
Another clutch performer was freshman Natalie Beilstein, who captured yet another event title by winning the vault with a 9.900 score.
“I feel like a broken record when people keep asking me about her,” Plocki said. “She’s been such a delightful addition to the program, and has shown maturity well beyond her years in that she is just a competitive young lady. When the lights come on she is definitely there to perform.”
In spite of the near-perfect record, the Wolverines have their work cut out for them as they play host to No. 4 Utah next Friday.
Just as their focus has been all season, Michigan must find consistency and confidence in order to hit its stride and pull off an upset at home.
“We are a really good team, but we have to start showing it in a consistent fashion,” Plocki said. “We have to figure out the trick to getting it together on beam, because that is going to be our downfall if we can’t pull it together.”