With the lights off and music blasting in Crisler Arena Saturday
night, a crowd of nearly 4,000 welcomed the Michigan women’s
gymnastics team for its first home meet of the season.

Mira Levitan
Jenny Deiley returned from injury, helping Michigan to an easy win over Michigan State. (JASON COOPER/Daily)

Loud cheers came from the crowd — which was heavily
saturated with elementary school children in honor of
“K-Grams Night” — throughout the night, as the
Wolverines put on a solid performance and topped Michigan State,
197.075-195.250.

“We’ve been on the road for three weekends in a row,
and I forgot what it’s like to compete at home,” senior
Calli Ryals said.

“We had a great audience today.”

Michigan completed a virtual sweep of the match, led by a 1-2
finish in the all-around by veterans Elise Ray and Ryals. Freshman
Lindsey Bruck continued her solid contribution, tying the
Spartans’ Sarah Alexander for third. Alexander was the only
Spartan able to break into the top three in any of the events.

Michigan State lacked the depth to keep pace with the
Wolverines.

On their best event, the beam, the Spartans’ tally of
49.050 was still less than Michigan’s worst score, 49.125 on
vault.

“Compared to other sports, there’s probably not much
of a rivalry, because the big teams (in gymnastics) are down
south,” Ryals said. “Those are the kind of teams that
we’re a little more competitive with.”

But the all-around runner-up said she doesn’t write teams
off completely.

“The Big Ten’s getting better every year, so
who’s to say that that won’t change,” Ryals
said.

The Wolverines began on vault, where Ray recorded the first of
her three 9.900 scores on the night. Ryals finished close behind
with a 9.850. Several stuck landings gave Michigan some momentum
going into the uneven bars, where it had struggled in last
week’s loss against Iowa.

This week, though, saw the return of both Jenny Deiley and
Lauren Mirkovich, who had been kept from competition recently by
injuries to the ankle and wrist, respectively. Deiley tied Ray for
first in the event with a 9.900, and Mirkovich closed the rotation
with a strong 9.825, giving the Wolverines more than a full-point
lead over the Spartans.

“It made a big difference to have Jenny and Lauren back in
the bar lineup again, and I know the team was fired up about
that,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said, noting that the uneven
bars is least stressful for an ankle injury, because the feet are
only on the ground for the final dismount.

Even so, the two won’t be back to full strength for a
little while.

“We’re trying to take it slowly,” Plocki said.
“Jenny has not vaulted or tumbled or done anything else yet.
If we can add one event a week, we’ll be doing really
well.”

Beam was once again Michigan’s strongest event, and Bruck
and Ryals led with 9.900 scores.

“(Bruck) has been doing really well, and she usually has
one little thing that she’s been messing up on during
competition,” Ryals said. “Tonight was the night that
she pulled it all together.”

The Wolverines kept their composure on the event despite an
early fall by Kara Rosella.

“Part of what we practice in the gym is that everybody is
in control of their own individual performance, so if somebody
before you falls, there’s no reason for you to panic and
change anything that you do,” Plocki said. “It’s
nice to see that when we have a fall early in the lineup like that,
that the next four kids got up and performed like it never
happened.”

Going into the final event of the night, the floor exercise, the
Wolverines held a commanding 147.625-146.200 lead.

Freshman Carol McNamara led off for Michigan, and her vibrant
9.800 performance set a festive tone for the rest of the team to
finish out the night.

“I made a mistake on beam, but then I came back on
floor,” McNamara said. “It just feels great to be back
here, competing.”

Ryals debuted her new floor routine — which she and a
choreographer created from scratch over winter break — to the
delight of the crowd and the judges, earning a 9.925. Ray was close
behind with her final 9.900 performance of the night.

“There’s some little rough ends here and there that
I need to work on, but the confidence level felt really good for
me,” Ryals said.

Plocki said that as a coach, there’s always room for more
“nitpicking.”

“We definitely still have room for improvement,”
Plocki said. “But overall, for this early in the season,
I’m very pleased and happy with our performance.”

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