After losing senior captain and two-time All American Lindsay Bruck to a season-ending injury last week, the No. 10 Michigan women’s gymnastics team needed someone to fill the void.
And for the time being, it appears the younger Wolverines are more than capable of answering the call.
Michigan used the stellar performances of their underclassmen to record a dominating victory over No. 19 Southern Utah 194.775 to 188.625 at Crisler Arena on Friday night.
The Wolverines extended their win-streak in home openers to 17-0, a record that dates back to 1990, when Michigan coach Bev Plocki took the reigns of the program.
Before the meet began, it was questionable whether the Wolverines could overcome the injuries.
Sophomore Huneth Lor, competing for the first time in the collegiate all-around, earned the vault title with a score of 9.725 on her way to an overall second place-finish and a combined score of 38.400.
“Tonight was another step for me,” Lor said. “It was the first time I’ve ever competed in the all-around, and it was great because my teammates were there the whole time to support me.”
Sophomore Becky Bernard claimed three individual titles in uneven bars, balance beam and floor routine, the first Wolverine to accomplish such a feat since Lindsay Bruck won the same three titles on Feb. 17, 2006. The bars title was Bernard’s second in as many meets, and in the process tied her career best on the balance beam with a score of 9.825.
Last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Tatjana Thuener-Rego, won a share of the uneven bars title with Bernard, posting a career high score of 9.875. Thuener-Rego also competed for the first time this season in the beam (third place) and floor (fifth place.
“This was my first time competing on the floor and beam this season,” Thuener-Rego said. “I had a new beam dismount which I had been working on this week and I was able to hit it. Last year I was the most confident on the beam, but this year I am more confident on the floor.”
Michigan dominated the Thunderbirds from the opening vault exercises to the final floor routines, with many athletes despite many gymnasts participating in their first meets.
Seniors Carol McNamara and Clare Flannery were two gymnasts who made their debut this season on the vault and the balance beam, respectively. Flannery set a career high 9.700, especially important after a fall by a teammate in the previous balance beam routine.
“We had a lot of new faces in the lineup tonight,” Plocki said. “Clare (Flannery) came through for us on beam, and that’s what we expect from a senior.”
Junior Nellie Kippley also had a big night for the Wolverines, winning a share of the floor title with a score of 9.825 and placing second on the balance beam.
The Wolverines showed great depth and poise, along with an ability to overcome situational circumstances over which they couldn’t control.
“It was tough with Lindsey getting hurt last week,” Lor said. “But we have a whole season ahead of us and we all had to step up and make up the difference.”
Even with another win and solid overall performances, Plocki expects the Wolverines to tighten up their routines this week in practice. When asked about the career highs posted by Bernard, Flannery and Thuener-Rego, Plocki said she looks more at the quality of the routine than the numbers.
“We competed better on floor than the score reflected,” said Plocki through the Athletic Department, “I thought the vault scores were a little tight, but those are things we can’t control. We started a bit flat, and we weren’t as sharp as I would have liked us to be on vault, but we picked up the momentum.”