8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsTuesday - January 16, 2001
2001 WOMEN'S PRESEASON
Lenna Doolan So.
Janessa Grieco So.
Bridget Knaeble Sr.
Amy Kuczera Jr.
Shannon MacKenzie Jr.
Christine Mantilia Fr.
Erin McWatt Jr.
Christine Michaud Sr.
Melissa Peterson Jr.
Elise Ray Fr.
Jodie Rosenberg Jr.
Alison Rudisi Jr.
Calli Ryals Fr.
Karina Senior Sr.
Cami Singer So.
Tara Tagliarino So.
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Assistant Coach: Scott Sherman
Assistant Coach: Paul Scardina
Although she isn't competing in Sydney, and
even though her team now wears Maize
nd Blue instead of red, white and blue,
freshman Olympian Elise Ray would not trade her
spot on the Michigan women's gymnastics team for
On Nov. 22, Michigan coach Bev Plocki
received word from the NCAA that Ray had been
given clearance to compete for the Wolverines this
"It was a very stressful time for me because
Elise strung out her decision till the end," Plocki
said. "But after I heard the news, I was so excited
that I couldn't sleep all night."
Ray, captain of the US women's gymnastics
team in Sydney this past summer, began her career
at a very early age in her hometown of Columbia,
"I started when I was six," Ray said. "I enrolled
in a small recreational class that wasn't even a
gymnastics class to begin with. I just kind of had a
knack for it, so the teachers there told my coaches
that I should be put in a regular gymnastics pro-
gram. I have been competing ever since."
From that point on, everything has seemed to
come easily to Ray.
"My biggest obstacle growing up was not believ-
ing in myself enough," Ray said. "Sometimes I
would get frustrated and stuck if I couldn't get some-
thing, and that didn't get me anywhere. But my
coaches and teammates helped me a lot with that"
In 1995, Ray began competing for the Hill's
Gymnastics Club under the tutelage of coach Kelli
Hill. Hill, two time winner of the USA Gymnas-
tics Coach of the Year award, has also coached the
world championships team on four separate occa-
Ray said that the time spent at Hill's was impor-
tant because she could watch older gymnasts per-
form and learn from an excellent coach.
"I have anvays been kind of the baby in the
group, so I have always liked watching older gym-
nasts because they motivate me.
"When I joined the club in 1995, Dominique
Dawes was just starting to train for the 1996
Olympics. It was really cool to be training with
her" Ray said.
While competing with the club, Ray also attend-
ed Wilde Lake High School where her days would
often become very long and difficult.
"Coach Hill was a firm believer in the public
school system," Ray said. "It was hard, though,
because I would go to gymnastics practice before
school for an hour-and-a-half, then come back after
school for five more hours."
Still, all the hard work paid off for Ray. In 2000,
it was her turn to step into the spotlight and lead the
Olympic team into Sydney for the summer games.
"The Olympics was an amazing experience,"
Ray said. "It was really hard when we were there,
but the team as a whole was wonderful. We all got
along really well and we became really good
friends. Also, Sydney was a beautiful city, and we
had a lot of fun.
"One of the best moments was the Olympic tri-
als. When we found out we had made the team, we
went out on the floor, confetti and balloons
dropped, and it was amazing"
Ray struggled a bit, finishing 14th in the all-
around and eighth on the balance beam.
The 2000 Olympic Games was not the only
major competition Ray participated in during her
five years on the US National Team. In 1999, Ray
traveled to China to compete in the gymnastics
world championships. Prior to the Olympics, Ray
competed in New Zealand as a member of the
2000 Senior Pacific Alliance Team.
But after five years on the national team, Ray
had to choose a college. For coach Plocki and
assistant coach Scott Sherman, it was their time to
shine. After one trip to Ann Arbor, and one in-
house visit by Sherman, Ray was convinced.
"Recruiting Elise was a challenge for us because
we knew every school would have loved to have
her," Plocki said. "She made recruiting trips to
Michigan, UCLA and Utah. I think she fit in really
well with the kids here - she was really down to
"UCLA was our biggest fear because they do an
excellent job with recruiting, Sherman said. "But I
think everything clicked for her here. She was a
perfect fit with the athletes and the girls really
wanted her here."
Ray is looking forward to competing at the col-
Home meets in
Super Six fourth place
Oregon State W,1sa-wSas
Minn. and Iowa 7 p.m.
Kentucky 7:30 p.m.
Fla. and Auburn 7 p.m.
Georgia 7:30 p.m.
SE Missouri State 4 p.m.
Utah 7 p.m.
UCLA 7 p.m.
West Virginia 7 p.m.
Big Tens 6 p.m.
NCAA Regionals 6 p.m.
lege level because of the team-oriented atmosphere
that surrounds it.
"Elite level gymnastics, like the Olympics,
focuses on the individual. You're kind of out there
on your own when competing," Ray said. "At the
college level there is so much team spirit and it is a
lot more fun."
With the addition of Ray, the women's gymnas-
tics team hopes that they can finally capture the
NCAA championship that has eluded it for many
years. Michigan finished as runner-up in 1995 and
1999, its highest finishes ever.
Ray, who passed up an opportunity to compete
at the professional level by staying in Ann Arbor,
will make her first start of the season this Friday
night at home when the Wolverines host Minnesota
"She is a wonderful gymnast, and a wonderful
woman," Plocki said. "We hope that she can bring
pleasure to all of our fans."
By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Wrter
Home meets in
Super Six Challenge
A look at some of Michigan's
best and brightest competitors
Photos by Brandon Sedloff
Senior tri-captain Bridget Knaeble leads the
Michigan attack this season. She will compete
in the all-around.
2000 NCAA RESULTS
1999 NCAA RESULTS
A first team All-
American on vault
Grieco is one of the
scorers on the
4. Arizona State
m Sarah Cain (all-around, vault,
balance beam, uneven bars)
EJanessa Grieco (vault)
Christine Michaud (vault)
SShannon MacKenzie (balance
After taking first place honors In the
all-around against Oregon State, senior
Karina Senior will try to repeat her
success of 2000. Senior was crucial to
last year's Big Ten and Regional titles.
Calli Ryals combines with three other
freshmen to make up one of the most
talented recruiting classes in Michigan
This weekend in its first home meet of
the year, the No. 3 Michigan women's
gymnastics team had an opportunity to
display its potent mix of new faces and
The Wolverines did not disappoint.
Paced by seniors Karina Senior and
Bridget Knaeble and freshman Calli
Ryals, the Wolverines downed No. 12
Oregon State 194.075-190.925 in front
of 1,061 fans at Cliff Keen Arena on Fri-
"This is a starting point," Michigan
coach Bev Plocki said. "We will contin-
ue to build on it, and try and work out
the kinks. I feel good about it, though."
Senior led Michigan with an all-
around score of 39.125, good enough to
take first place individually. She was fol-
lowed closely by Ryals and Knaeble,
who finished second and third, respec-
tively, with scores of 39.000 and 37.825.
"Winning the first home meet is moti-
vational for the whole season," said
Senior. "It's important, not only for the
team, but for the fans."
After strong showings on the vault
and bars, Michigan ran into trouble on
the beam. Two falls had to be counted
against the team's top five scores. But
junior Shannon MacKenzie finished the
event strong for the Wolverines, posting
a 9.750. The score was good enough to
extend the Wolverines' tenuous lead at
the time, and also gave Michigan some
needed confidence heading into the
night's final rotation.
"It's important for the person after
someone falls to do well," MacKenzie
said. "It's just important to come through
for the team"
Oregon State hung with Michigan
through the first two rotations, but two
injuries severely hampered the Beavers'
cause. The- second injury, sustained by
sophomore Tanya Ricioli on the floor,
effectively ended the Beavers' hope of
winning the match.
"Anytime you see a peer go down, it
makes you count your blessings," Plocki
said. "It's terrible, and it definitely has an
Michigan finished the evening on the
floor and put together its best rotation of
the evening, tallying a 49.275. With the
score, the Wolverines were more than
able to finish off the Beavers. Ryals, in
her home debut, led the way with a
9.900 -good for second place.
"It was a little nerve-wracking but it
went well," Ryals said of competing in
her first home meet. "We all tried to stay
positive, and just get everyone hyped up
and ready to go"
Michiaan event winners against
Continued from Page 1B
leaders of the squad.
Michaud earned first team All-America honors on vault
last year, while Knaeble scored second team All-America
on the uneven bars and will compete as an all-around per-
former this year.
Senior will also compete in the all-around with a second
team All-America recognition already under her belt in the
"I think it's going to take a little bit longer for this team to
come together," Senior said. "It'll happen though. We've got
a lot of leaders that have been here and some new younger
leaders as well."
One of those young leaders is sophomore Janessa Grieco.
One year removed from Big Ten Freshman of the Year hon-
ors, Grieco also earned first team All-America on vault and
could be a force in the all-around this season.
Grieco was given an opportunity to earn her spot on the
team last year, as she took part in three event at NCAA's.
"I really learned how to compete with the team," Grieco
said. "I've learned how to go out there and be confident."
Junior Shannon MacKenzie was the fourth Wolverine to
be named first-team All-America, earning her honor on the
balance beam. Fellow juniors Amy Kuczera, Melissa Peter-
son and Erin McWatt also will look to break their way into
the lineup, along with Jodie Rosenberg, a tri-captain of the
team with Knaeble and Michaud.
Sophomores Lenna Doolan, Cami Singer and Tara
Tagliarino join Grieco as the second-year members of the
B"A"DON "EL" F " /Dily
The floor exercise will perhaps be the key event that the
Wolverines will need to excel in this season.
FLOOR EXERCISE: Senior will lead the way on this event,
possibly the strongest for Michigan. The team turned in