Michigan clinches fourth straight win
The No. 7 Michigan women’s gymnastics team left East Lansing on Saturday afternoon with a solid win by a score of 196.025 – 195.625, but the Wolverines (4-1 Big Ten, 6-2 overall) weren’t satisfied. Normally, it may have been enough to defeat in-state rival Michigan State (0-5, 3-5), but the Wolverines departed hungry for more.
“We were hoping for a really good away score that was going to help our RQS (score),” said Michigan coach Bev Plocki. “We came out with a win, which is great. We had some great individual performances. There were definitely a lot of positives.
“The ultimate goal was to come out with a mid-197 team score and we didn’t get that done.”
The Wolverines relied heavily on senior captain Nicole Artz, who nearly swept the meet. She took first place in three events, including vault, bars and floor.
Artz finished the meet with a 39.575, her best of 2017, and ultimately secured her fourth consecutive all-around title.
“She’s been amazing,” Plocki said. “She and Talia (Chiarelli) as a senior class have accounted for a very large percentage of our counting routines during the course of their careers here, so it’s been huge.”
Artz’s 9.900 on the bars proved useful during the first rotation after freshman Polina Shchennikova and junior Lauren Marinez both recorded falls, resulting in scores of 9.200 and 8.500, respectively. Michigan trailed after the first event — an unfamiliar terrain for a squad often in the lead.
And while Artz may be the clear leader of the Wolverines, the rest of her teammates take turns sharing the spotlight.
Sophomore Olivia Karas not only won the beam, scoring a 9.900, but also competed on the bars for the first time this season after recovering from a wrist injury. Her debut didn’t disappoint. She finished only behind Artz in the event with a 9.875.
One of the fresh faces on this year’s team is junior transfer Paige Zaziski. Not only has Zaziski brought the ability to compete in all events, but also she brings some extra excitement to the team. After she stuck the landing on her vault, she strutted back to her team snapping her fingers, a signature feature of her routine.
If Zaziski’s reaction wasn’t enough to show that Michigan was having fun, the Wolverines moved to the floor event. Ranked fifth in the event, Michigan is known for its enthusiastic and fun routines.
Artz, Karas and sophomore Emma McLean shined in the event, earning the day’s top three scores. But Michigan had two gymnasts step out of bounds, which hurt the overall team score.
Artz’s continued excellence appears to lead toward the best season of her career, but her team may not necessarily be following suit. Michigan was happy to come away with the rivalry win, but it knows it needs to step up if it wants to accomplish its goals.
“This is the point in the season when we really have to be firing on all cylinders,” Plocki said. “The fact that we didn’t take advantage of a good away opportunity is disappointing.”