Facing harsh snowy weather in Morgantown, W. Va., the No. 15 Michigan women’s gymnastics team posted its most impressive scores of the year to finish its three-week road trip.
The Wolverines showcased an excellent and balanced performance from all 10 athletes in the meet, earning a season-high 196.400 overall score in a tri-meet victory against West Virginia and William and Mary on Friday.
After starting the year with inconsistent results, the squad seems to have hit its stride at the right point in the season.
“It all comes down to confidence and believing in what we’re doing,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “You have to know you’re going to be successful in order to be successful, and I think this team is finally starting to believe that all the way.”
Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 7-1 overall) received stellar routines from every gymnast, finishing the meet with seven of the 10 Wolverines either setting or tying career or season bests.
Matching its domination in performance from last week in Iowa, the team took all four event titles as well as the all-around crown.
“I was very happy with everything we did tonight,” Plocki said. “I think this shows that our train is chugging down the track and we’re really progressing. This was definitely a good meet for us all around as a team.”
Freshman Natalie Beilstein, who is three-for-three thus far on winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, set two career highs. She took the vault title with a 9.900, and finished as the runner-up on the balance beam with a 9.850.
The Wolverines were again boosted by junior Kylee Botterman’s routines, as she posted several career-highs. She won three individual events – the uneven bars, floor routine and the beam – and won her third straight all-around title with a career high 39.550 overall score.
While the team has counted on her to tally a bulk of the points this year, Botterman has accumulated more awards this season than anyone could have expected. Still, this weekend’s victory was no big surprise.
“Kylee has had a terrific year, and she just had a fantastic meet tonight all the way around,” Plocki said. “She was a superstar tonight.”
Although the individual efforts have clearly helped carry Michigan, especially as of late, the gymnasts point to their team confidence and motivation as the primary factor in their recent solid numbers.
“I think everybody looked great,” Botterman said. “We had a lot of energy tonight. There weren’t a lot of people in the stands because there was a huge snowstorm, so we had to make the arena loud with our own voices, and that really boosted our confidence.”
According to Botterman, the Wolverines have pin-pointed their landings as a major fault in their game. Fed up with consistently losing tenths of points off their scores, the team decided to make a change.
“Our coaches made a board for us, and for every meet we’re counting how many sticks we get,” Botterman said. “We have a certain amount that we want to get by the end of the year.”
Has it worked?
“Well, when I went to vault I was thinking, ‘stick this, stick this,’ ” Botterman said with a laugh. “I almost think that I can’t do that because it wasn’t my best vault and it was the lowest score of the night. I think the rest of the events made up for it, though.”
Michigan will employ this tactic once again in the next week of practice before Minnesota comes to Ann Arbor next Saturday.
As the regular season passes its midpoint, Michigan will try to build off its momentum, and its balance of late, to carry the squad through in its remaining six meets.
“I just want to keep trying to improve,” Plocki said. “We definitely still have areas that we still can improve, and the pieces of the puzzle all have to keep coming together for us to be successful the rest of the season.”