In its final meet of the regular season Friday, the No. 10 Michigan women’s gymnastics team found plenty to be satisfied with in its close loss to top-ranked Alabama.

On the Crimson Tide’s Senior Night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Wolverines kept themselves within striking distance all night long, falling by just a slim margin of 197.575-196.875, which set a season-high team score.

The only problem for Michigan (4-1 Big Ten, 13-3 overall) was that Alabama (9-2) also put up its top marks of the season, tallying the top score for any team in the NCAA this year.

But despite the defeat, the overall team score boosted spirits enough to appreciate the outcome.

“We’re happy to come away with that score, and we are very pleased with how we performed,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “We’re steadily climbing and getting ready for next week and the beginning of the postseason.”

With the Big Ten Championships next Saturday, the team is peaking at just the right time. The most encouraging aspect of the evening was the Wolverines’ ability to regain stability on the balance beam where they struggled much of the season.

Although the beam rotation was the team’s biggest worry at the beginning of the season, senior captain Kelsey Knutson hasn’t faltered as of late, taking home the ninth title of her career with a career-best 9.950 performance against the Crimson Tide.

“That was just icing on the cake,” Knutson said. “This was by far the best gymnastics meet of my life, and it was just a lot of fun to go out there and put it all together.”

But just as Knutson’s high scores no longer come as a surprise, junior Kylee Botterman’s numbers were just as outstanding as they have been all season.

Botterman put up an all-around score of 39.550 to steal the crown from Alabama’s Morgan Dennis and Ashley Priess, and won the vault with a nearly perfect score of 9.950.

“To go out and win the all-around against the top-ranked team in the nation is a pretty big accomplishment,” Plocki said. “Kylee had a great meet and had an absolutely outstanding vault. One of the judges even gave her a 10.0 on vault.”

Aside from the individual performances, Plocki had a few words to say about the meet’s judging, saying that the scoring seemed slightly biased, and with the Big Ten Championships looming, she hopes that the judging from now on will be a non-factor.

“It was Alabama’s Senior Night, so the judging was pretty generous for some of their routines,” Plocki said. “They are a very, very good team, but I thought that the team score should have been a little bit closer. I hope that in postseason competition in a neutral atmosphere we would give them a little more of a run for their money.“

As the Wolverines approach next Saturday’s six-team matchup in Columbus, they will try to contend for their fourth-straight conference championship by putting up equally impressive totals.

“When we go up against the top teams, the difference is that they are sticking their landings, and we can improve on that,” Plocki said. “I just want to go in there and have the same kind of meet, the same kind of energy and focus that we had (on Friday), and if we do that then we should fare very well in the postseason.”

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