According to Penn State gymnast Brandi Personett, the Michigan women’s gymnastics team needs to be put in its place. And those fighting words have stoked the fire for the Wolverines this year.

“This year we’re gonna win Big Tens for sure and be the first-ever team do that,” Personett told the Penn State student newspaper, The Collegian earlier this December. “We’re gonna put Michigan in their place.”

Personett is the predicted Big Ten gymnast of year, but such words are bold even for an athlete of her caliber. The Wolverines haven’t lost a Big Ten match since 2007, and while the last loss was to Penn State, five meetings between the two squads since the loss have put Michigan back on top of the one-sided matchup. In addition, the Wolverines have been Big Ten champions 16 of the past 18 years, including the last three.

However, Michigan is picked third in the Big Ten preseason poll. It begs the question, “Where is the respect?”

Michigan coach Beverly Plocki isn’t too worried about the rankings, and she shouldn’t be. This is the first year such rankings have been instituted. The polls are voted upon by the seven Big Ten coaches.

“The only thing that matters is how you finish at the end,” Plocki said.

The Wolverines lost seniors Tatjana Thuener-Rego, Becky Bernard and Huneth Lor to graduation last year, but talent is anything but scarce on the 2009 roster, which features juniors Kylee Botterman and captain Trish Wilson.

Botterman is listed as one of 14 gymnasts to watch this season, according to the Big Ten preseason poll, along with freshman teammate Natalie Beilstein. Botterman, a three-time All American and winner of the Big Ten floor exercise last year to graduation, said she focused a lot on the little things this summer.

“It’s the little stuff that adds up in competitions, and you have to work on those to be good,” Botterman said of the upcoming inner-squad scrimmage set to take place this Saturday. “I love to compete and now we are ready to go.”

Added Wilson: “(The scrimmage) is fun. It’s a good way for us to get ready for the season and perform at a competitive level before the year begins.”

For the freshmen, the inner-squad scrimmage is their first taste of collegiate competition.

“They are really adjusting well,” Wilson said. “We are a very tight knit team.”

This Saturday will kick off the season, and as rankings and trash-talk attempt to cloud the Wolverines’ hopes for a Big Ten championship and a national title, the nearly two decade-long dynasty will try to stay the course as they have for so long.

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