EAST LANSING — General George S. Patton once said that success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom. On March 11, the No. 7 Michigan women’s gymnastics team suffered a devastating loss at No. 8 Georgia. Michigan bounced back beating the Spartans on Friday. This victory gave Michigan coach Bev Plocki her 300th career win and reminded the rest of the gymnastics world that the Wolverines are still a serious threat.
After the debacle against Georgia, the Wolverines knew they had to step up and get back on track to insure their problems were behind them and that they would not run into the same issues later in the postseason.
“We worked on a few mental things,” fifth-year senior Elise Ray said. “At this point in the season, it gets pretty mental, and it’s not so much physical. So we just worked on our focus and our mental game.”
Plocki spoke to the team about their need to reverse a trend of negative routines and be able to focus on the routine ahead — not just the big picture. Those words of wisdom proved to be useful on the Wolverine’s balance beam rotation against the Spartans.
“You can’t be sure that you’re not going to run into the same problems,” Plocki said. “We sat down, and we talked a lot about the fact that, if something starts to go the way we don’t want it to go, we have to stop that trend and then we have to dig down and pull out that Michigan pride and get things turned around. And that’s exactly what we did on beam, we came back in those last few routines and nailed sets.”
As for Plocki’s 300th career win — the longtime Michigan coach was unfazed by the milestone and was more concerned with her team’s improvement and all-around performance.
“Honestly, that was the last thing on my mind,” Plocki said. “Last weekend, somebody brought it up that it could be the 300th win if we had done it, and I just wanted to come in here tonight and put up a good score to improve our ranking. So that’s where my focus was.”
Michigan had a near-flawless night against the Spartans, struggling on just its first few balance beam routines. The team opened the night on the uneven bars, where Ray won her 10th bar title of the season. She scored a 9.95 and helped Michigan to its second-highest combined bar score at 49.375.
“I try to take it one meet and one routine at a time, and then I hear these big numbers. So it is very exciting to get something like that,” Ray said of her achievement.
Ray also won the all-around competition, scoring a 39.625 — a season-best for Ray — and tying the Michigan school record for most 39-point-or-better all around finishes at 36.
On vault, Michigan, led by junior Jenny Deiley’s first-place finish of 9.875, brought in its third-highest combined score of the season at 49.250. All the Wolverines finished their routines with scores above a 9.80, while the Spartans had just one gymnast score better than that mark.
“We just focused more, and we knew what to do,” Lieberman. “We kept our cool and just did what we always did in practice and carried that through the rest of the meet.”
Michigan’s momentum continued on the floor exercise, where the Wolverines scored their third-highest total of the season with a 49.325. But their rapidly growing momentum only seemed to hurt them as the team began their balance beam rotation. The first three gymnasts all struggled to keep their balance on the apparatus, and none earned a scored above 9.700. But, the upperclassmen experience of junior Becca Clauson calmed the team’s nerves. She scored a 9.900 — good for second-place finish — and brought the Wolverines back to the level of perfection they exhibited throughout the rest of the meet. Sophomore Lindsey Bruck and Ray followed Clauson, scoring a 9.875 and 9.975 respectively, which tied a career-best for Ray.
“Our first three events were great, and we possibly had too much momentum going into the balance beam,” Plocki said. “That is an event that you have to be able to calm down and not have too much adrenaline for, so its unfortunate that we didn’t end as strong as we would have liked to.”
The slip-up on balance beam highlighted the Wolverines’ improvements since their loss to Georgia. In Athens, Ga., the gymnasts lost control of their routines and spiraled out of control, resulting in a 197.00 to 194.875 loss.
“I was the most proud of when we started rough on beam and then last three kids that went were able to turn it around and have great performances,” Plocki said. “I think we learned a lot from last week because we didn’t just let that downward trend continue.”
The Wolverines’ triumph over the Spartans gives the team just the momentum they need heading into Big Tens, which will be held in Iowa City next weekend. More importantly the win boosts Michigan’s spirits and proves they can handle themselves like winners, no matter their previous shortcomings.
“The win was really important, especially heading into Big Tens,” Lieberman said. “Georgia didn’t go as well as we wanted, and this really helped to boost our confidence. I think a lot of good things will come at Big Tens.”