LIVE BLOG: No. 4 Alabama at No. 7 Michigan

We’re starting the season with a bang! This match up should be a real early season treat and perhaps a preview of a battle we’ll see between these teams for a Super Six berth in April. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Michigan Wolverines are both teams that saw success throughout 2017 and then struggled at nationals, Michigan in the semifinals and Alabama in Super Six. The Crimson Tide had its lowest finish, sixth, since 2008 and lost six seniors and 10 postseason routines. Michigan’s 10th place finish was an under-performance, and the Wolverines are now without superstars Nicole Artz and Talia Chiarelli and their seven post season scores.

This meet is a story of two beam teams, so look for the third rotation to be a highlight for Michigan and the fourth for Alabama. Questions arise on the other three events. How many 10.0 vaults will each team bring? Alabama is capable of six, but we’re likely to see more like four. Michigan has three that are fairly certain and possibly two more waiting in the wings. Bars was a bit of a struggle for both teams early last year: Will the Crimson Tide or the Wolverines be able to pull out a solid rotation right off the bat? The return of Brianna Brown at full strength to Michigan’s ranks, as well as the addition of Sydney Townsend, bode well for the Wolverines. Alabama adds Kylie Dickson’s solid bars work, as well as a much improved dismount from Wynter Childers. The big question here is whether Bailie Key is ready to put up a full routine for the Crimson Tide. On floor, as is true of almost any team early in the season, endurance is key. But even if Michigan can push through, who will replace the big scores from Artz and Chiarelli?

Injury notes: Ari Guerra (Alabama) was seen in a boot on snapchat this week, but appears to just be heavily taped today. Maddy Osman (Michigan) has a tweaked knee and will be out, per coach Bev Plocki’s radio interview on Thursday.

Michigan’s leos for tonight! Can we make #leowatch a thing for every team, please?!


Alabama has made it to Crisler! We’re getting close.

We have Michigan lineups!

Rotation 1: Michigan vault, Alabama bars

Lexi Funk (Michigan): Nice FTY, good height, flares it out. 9.725

Wynter Childers (Alabama): Toe on, shaposh, pak, nice. little shy on the last handstand, blind, double front half out. 9.725

Polina Shchennikova (Michigan): FTY, tiny hop on the landing, good to see her on vault!

Shea Mahoney (Alabama): Gorgeous toe point. Toe on, falls on her Maloney. Bail handstand, nice. Toe shoot, half in half out steps out to the side but covers it well. 9.05, pressure on for the rest of the lineup.

Sydney Townsend (Michigan): Y1.5, timing is off and she falls forward to her hands. 9.225

Ari Guerra (Alabama): Blind + Jaeger, bail, little short, nice last handstand, double layout just shuffles a foot back. Nice! 9.8

Paige Zaziski (Michigan): Y1.5, very nice and open, piked it a bit. 9.825 CORRECTION: This was a Yfull.

Jenny Loeb (Alabama): Her first time ever in the bars lineup! In for Mackenzie Brannan who has the flu. Maloney, bail handstand. Nice double layout! Nice to see that. 9.8.

Olivia Karas (Michigan): Big Y1.5, also a big step forward. 9.825, without the step that will be a big score.

Kylie Dickson (Alabama): Bail handstand, nice. She has great lines. Lovely toe handstand, huge Tkatchev. Big full in, sticks it! 9.9, totally deserved.

Emma McLean (Michigan): Y1.5, some knees in the air and what looked like two shuffle steps forward. 9.875

Kiana Winston (Alabama): Toe handstand, Maloney, pak, gorgeous! Perfect toes. Sole circle. She’s nailing handstands. Double layout with a step that she covered well. 9.925.

Michigan: 49.025, Alabama: 49.15

Good starts for both teams! Lots of little steps to clean up for Michigan, but their vaults showed good amplitude. Alabama showed a lot of clean lines and good form. Both will want to eliminate falls, though.

Rotation 2: Michigan bars, Alabama vault

[Folks my feed is behind, so I’m a bit behind what you’re seeing on twitter! Will try to resolve the next rotation break.]

Childers (Alabama): Nice FTY, just steps forward. 9.65, seems a little low, possibly docked for amplitude.

Townsend (Michigan): GORGEOUS handstand. Shaposh, bail handstand. Giant full
+ double tuck, just a little step. 9.85

Maddie Desch (Alabama): FTY, nailed it. Great form in the air. 9.775

Guys, my feed dropped, but is now caught up.

Paige Zaziski (Michigan): Jumped in at the dismount, a beautiful double layout with strong landing.

Michigan: 49.225; Alabama: 49.025

Totals: Michigan: 98.25; Alabama: 98.175

From what I saw (apologies for dropping out! My connection is better now!) Michigan looks very strong on bars. Good toes, good lines, pretty nice landings. They’re right about at the sweet spot of the score they’ll want on that event. Alabama vault scores are a little low. They’ll want to be more in the 49.2-49.4 range there moving forward.

Here are the scores I missed:

Rotation 3: Michigan beam; Alabama floor

Karas (Michigan): Interesting that she’s still the leadoff this year. She looks very confident. GORGEOUS switch-gainer layout + beat jump. Switch split jump + beat. She’s attacking this routine. Bhs + loso, drops her shoulder and lifts leg but stays on. Solid full turn. Punch rudi dismount, great landing. 9.725

Childers (Alabama): The perpetual leadoff for Alabama this year! Full-in to start, good, some sloppy legs. Nice double twist second pass. Pretty tour jete + split full. She has a smirk on her face through this whole routine. FHS + rude + back tuck, again, some sloppy legs. She’ll want to clean up some of that tumbling. 9.75, seems about right.

Zaziski (Michigan): Cat leap + switch side. She looks focused. This is where she struggled in exhibition versus EMU. Solid bhs + loso. Nice switch + straddle 1/4. Full turn, has to turn to the side but covers it. Great front toss. Big wobble, then gainer layout 1/1 off the side. 9.7

Maddie Desch (Albama): Big double pike, just a tiny hop. No double Arabian yet, but she’s capable of it. Back 1.5 + barani +split jump + front. Double back to finish, good landing! 9.725

Lexi Funk (Michigan): Bhs + loso, very good. She seems very calm and steady. Switch straddle 1/4, so original. Split jump + back pike, solid. Beat + popa, no problems. Punch rudi, stuck. Great set. 9.825

Abby Armbrecht (Alabama) : Double pike, little bit of an uncontrolled step back. She’ll add a double layout at some point,. Switch side + straddle half, nice splits. Back 1.5 + front layout, solid. Switch ring, really pretty. FHS + rudi, controlled landing. This routine is pretty dramatic and she performs it well! 9.775, a career high!

Brianna Brown: Front aerial + beat, nice. Bhs loso totally solid. So good to see her back on beam. Round off + double full dismount. So clam and steady. Great routine. 9.85

Shea Mahoney (Alabama): Big double pike, almost steps out but saves it. Fhs front full punch front, little low. Split full + straddle full. She could perform this routine a little more. Double tuck, runs out of energy and puts her knees down. Just an endurance fall. CORRECTION: she did go out. 8.8

Lauren Farley (Michigan): Switch + split, really nice. Bhs loso, big wobble and she’s off. That’s meant to be a triple series. Just seemed like nerves. 1.5 turn, lovely. Side aerial + split jump, nice. Gainer layout off the end, good landing. 9.15

Nickie Guerrero (Alabama): Double pike, very high, typical flexed feet. She’s so into this choreo. Switch side + split 1/2, really nice split. 1.5 + front full, solid. Rudi to end, no problems. Nice routine, just needs to watch her toes throughout.

Lauren Marinez (Michigan): Lost the first bit of the routine while WordPress loaded, but her gorgeous jump split mount. She had a little wobble on a front aerial. Round off double twist, nailed landing. Great hit after Farley’s fall. 9.875

Kiana Winston (Alabama): Time for the anchor to shine! Huge double pike. Tour jete, nice. Front layout + front full. Ring leap + split half, nice splits. High double back, lands chest down and has some toe form in the air, but nice way to close out. 9.775

Michigan: 48.975; Alabama: 48.775

Totals: Michigan: 147.225; Alabama: 146.95

Those rotations did not go as planned for either team. Michigan just looked nervy; the Wolverines will want to settle in, because beam should be their best event. Alabama seemed to be struggling a bit with endurance and performance quality away from home. As expected, though, this is a close one!

Rotation 4: Michigan, floor; Alabama, beam

Childers (Alabama): Bhs loso, just a little check. Pretty full turn. Split + sheep, back leg a little low. Front aerial to scale. Round off double twist, some leg cross in the air. Pretty good leadoff, but she has some cleaning up to do. 9.7

Funk (Michigan): Front double full, new E pass, very nice, pretty controlled. Split + popa, nice. Front full + layout, no problems. She’s performing well. Double pike, runs out of steam and has to step forward. Good routine! Just needs to fix that last pass.

Desch (Alabama): Front aerial + beat, nice. bhs loso, big bobble and break at the hips. She looks calm on the full turn, though. Just a little tight. Switch leap and another bobble. Switch leap + split jump, had to do them again for the connection. Bhs  bhs to two feet, 1.5 dismount, solid landing. 9.625, got hit for those wobbles.

Zaziski (Michigan): High double pike, looking to add a double Arabian eventually. Tour jete + split full, nice toes. Front layout + tucked barani, which seemed like an error, likely meant to be a front full. Moon walk! Double back, good height and landing, but rough toes. 9.675, hit for that second pass.

Bailie Key (Alabama): KEY IS HERE. Switch leap, nice. Switch half, wobble, beat jump. Her usual gorgeous toes. Bhs bhs and she’s off. Triple series not going well tonight. Side aerial, gorgeous. Roundoff 1.5, good landing. Judges conferring on her score, because she had no acro series (didn’t get either foot on on the second bhs). 8.475

Marinez (Michigan): Fhs front lay rudi, really nice in the air. 1.5 twist second pass, nice. Wolf full, good air position and rotation. She looks a little tight and nervous. Back to three passes, she did two last year. Ends with double pike, has to really pull it around and take a big hopping step forward, but good to see her back to three passes with the double at the end. 9.675

Lexi Graber (Alabama): Fun shoulder stand mount. She moves quickly and confidently. Bhs layout to two feet, piked which is allowed in NCAA. Switch leap + straddle 3/4 nice. Front toss to scale, lovely lines in that skill! She moves with great fluidity. Roundoff double with a step. THAT is the routine Alabama needed. 9.875, totally deserved.

Brown (Michigan): So happy to see her on floor. 2.5 twist to open, falls out of it just a little, but gets it under control. She’s working for a triple eventually. Double pike second pass, great landing, complete control. Tour jete 1/2 + split full, she’s looking tired. 1.5 + front layout, gets it around. Good routine for her! 9.8!

Winston (Alabama): Split + straddle 1/2. She attacks her split positions. Front aerial + bhs, nice. Moving quickly and with really extended body through choreo. Double tuck dismount! Just a step back, but great amplitude. Career high 9.9!

Karas (Michigan): The Madonna routine is here! Arabian Double front, drops the landing perfectly! Tour jete + wolf full, she’s even playing to the camera! Front lay + front full, solid. She’s grinning through the whole routine. Double pike to end, just a little soft in the knees. Great routine! 9.925

Guerrero (Alabama): Bhs loso loso, big wobble and touches the beam. Switch leap + straddle, nice. She looks a little mad at herself, ah but then she smiles at the judges. Roundoff 1.5 dismount, great landing. Another triple series bites the dust, they seem cursed today. 9.625, that will seal the win for Michigan.

McLean (Michigan): Massive opening double tuck. Tour jete 1/2 + popa. This routine is so energetic! Front lay + frotn full, lovely form. Double pike, high, but lands with her chest low. Great routine to finish. 9.9.

Michigan: 48.975; Alabama: 48.725

FINAL: Michigan: 196.2; Alabama: 195.675

This was a close meet, as suspected. Michigan looked mid-season quality on bars, but has improvements to make on the other events. Both teams had some endurance issues on floor that should get resolved with time. Alabama fell apart a little bit on beam, including uncharacteristic errors that looked like nerves. We should expect that score to go up as the season progresses. Michigan had its own beam woes, but nothing that can’t be tackled with more meets and pressure sets. Overall, it was a fine but not great outing for both teams, and each will walk away with things to work on for week two.

Event winners:

Vault: Nickie Guerrero, 9.9

Bars: Kiana Winston: 9.925

Beam: Kiana Winston: 9.9

Floor: Olivia Karas: 9.925

AA: 1. Karas, 39.35, 2. Wynter Childers, 38.825, 3. Paige Zaziski, 38.3

Live blog by Emily Minehart

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