With her brother — an Army Ranger who spent time in Iraq — in town for the meet, senior Elise Ray exploded at the Coaches Care Challenge at Crisler Arena on Friday, winning her first all-around title of the season (38.575) and cleanly sweeping the event titles.
“That’s what did it for me,” Ray said. “I feel like I’ve been in a little bit of a rut lately, and they just pulled me right out — all the boys that came. They’re like my family — I mean my brother and all his friends. … It was a really special night.”
Ray’s brother and some of his fellow Army Rangers were honored for their service in Iraq during the meet. With her brother in attendance, Ray certainly did come back in full force after being plagued by a shoulder injury and a sore Achilles tendon that has been bothering her all season. She started out the night with a pair of 9.875s on the vault and bars. She upped her score to a 9.900 on beam and clinched the sweep with a 9.925 on floor.
“(Friday) was just (Elise’s) night,” sophomore Lindsey Bruck said. “I was so proud of her. She had a smile on her face. And her brother was here, and it was great for him to see her.”
As phenomenal as it was, Ray’s performance could not overshadow the team’s success as a whole. At least four Wolverines earned a third-place finish or better in every event. And Ray (39.575), Bruck (39.325) and junior Jenny Deiley (39.300) went one-two-three in the all-around in No 2. Michigan’s win over West Virginia (196.950-193.125).
“All of us put together had a great meet tonight,” Ray said. “I mean, we hit our team high … And even so, we didn’t have our perfect meet yet. So we’re really excited about our team score.”
The Wolverines did not have to count a single score below a 9.800 during the meet, coming just five hundredths of a point short of achieving their season-long goal of a 197-combined team score.
“We really needed this home performance to go into the latter part of the season,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “We’re changing into an RQS system, and I hope that this will propel us to the No. 1 ranking, which I think will be incredible for our kids’ confidence and everything else.”
Based on the RQS ranking system, every team’s best six scores — including at least three from away meets — will be averaged after dropping the highest of the six. The teams will be ranked according to this average. Michigan should be announced as the No. 1 team in the nation today.
Michigan started the meet off solidly on vault (49.225), where senior Shanna Duggan, freshman Katie Lieberman and Deiley tied for second behind Ray.
The Wolverines continued their momentum on bars, where they scored a solid 49.050. But they really excelled on beam (49.275) and floor (49.400).
“I thought our beam routines were spectacular just in general,” Plocki said. “I thought that this was by far the best floor performance that we’ve had as a whole.”
Plocki said that she got goosebumps three times Friday — once because of the team’s success, once during the recognition for the Army Rangers and once due to the funds raised for the Coach Carr Cancer Fund at the Silent Auction.
The Wolverines came away from the meet Friday night feeling good — with a little bit more confidence but also with the knowledge that they still have a few things they can improve.
“It’ll be nice to get back into the gym and keep working on some stuff and fix some things,” Bruck said.