Gophers recover from slow start to beat UIC

The women’s team fell to No. 11 Michigan on Sunday.

Gophers sophmore Kayla Slechta in action on the balance beam Saturday night at Sports Pavilion.

Anthony Kwan

Gophers sophmore Kayla Slechta in action on the balance beam Saturday night at Sports Pavilion.

Megan Ryan

After a disappointing first two rotations, the No. 7 Minnesota menâÄôs gymnastics team regained its composure to beat No. 11 Illinois-Chicago 339.4 to 321.3.

The two teams had just met last weekend when UIC hosted the Windy City Invitational. The Gophers finished fourth and defeated UIC by 10.9 points.

The first home meet of the season opened Saturday at the Sports Pavilion with a shaky start on the floor exercise for host Minnesota.

âÄúWe were having a great warm-up, but floor was awful,âÄù said head coach Mike Burns. âÄúIâÄôd recruited guys to come to the University of Minnesota, but a different group showed up.âÄù

The defining moment of the event occurred when senior and all-around competitor DJ Repp clipped the back of his head during a tumbling pass and blacked out for a few seconds. Although he did not finish his floor routine, paramedics determined Repp didnâÄôt suffer a concussion, and he continued with the meet.

The pommel horse also proved difficult forthe Gophers âÄî even though they were ranked No. 3 in the event heading into the weekend.

Freshman Ellis Mannon, ranked No. 3 in the country individually on the pommel horse, fell off twice and scored more than three points lower than his winning performance at last weekendâÄôs meet.

Burns attributed some of the problems the team faced to the earlier-than-usual start time and acknowledged that better preparation for early meets will be necessary to avoid initial problems.

After the rough start, the Gophers seemed to have loosened up enough to pull away from their lower-ranked opponent.

A major part of the turnaround was senior Russell Dabritz, who won both pommel horse and still rings to be named MinnesotaâÄôs Most Valuable Player at the tournament.

âÄúIt was hard because it was cold, so if you sat down and didnâÄôt stretch before, then thatâÄôs what hurt us on pommel and floor,âÄù Dabritz said. âÄúAfter that, though, we were back where we wanted to be.âÄù

Dabritz wasnâÄôt the only standout, as coach Burns also highlighted freshman walk-on Kyle BanksâÄô performance.

âÄúKyle [took second in the] floor exercise and did a great job on high bars,âÄù said Burns. âÄúIâÄôve been very pleased with him this season so far âÄî heâÄôs been outstanding.âÄù

The other Gophers champions were Mannon on high bars with 14.5 points, Zach Chase on vault with 15.1 and senior Ross Cameratta on parallel bars with 14.9.

The only event Minnesota did not individually conquer was floor exercise, which UICâÄôs Dan Zerbel won.

The Gophers will take on No. 9 Air Force Academy on the road in Colorado Springs on Jan. 28.

Women fall to Michigan

The No. 24 Minnesota womenâÄôs gymnastics team got off to a hot start in its four-rotation meet against No. 11 Michigan on Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion.

The Gophers were narrowly edged out of the top spot on the podium by Michigan, which posted an overall team score of 193.15 points to the GophersâÄô 193.

MinnesotaâÄôs first rotation on the vault gave it a solid start to the meet. The team performed well in the event despite filling just five of the six vaulting spots. Junior Janell Campbell was supposed to vault but was pulled before the meet. She still competed on bars but has been battling a foot injury for the past three weeks.

Mistakes on the uneven parallel bars and balance beam proved to be too insurmountable a gap to overcome. Although the team finished by sweeping the top three spots on floor exercise, it was not enough to beat the five-time defending Big Ten champions.

âÄúObviously, I was a little disappointed with our performance this evening,âÄù Gophers head coach Meg Stephenson said. âÄúAfter we had some mistakes on bars and beam, it was nice to see the team be able to come back and do a nice job on the floor.

âÄúBars and beam were honestly a surprise for me to have that many mistakes because we have been doing really well in the gym,âÄù Stephenson added. âÄúOur job will be to get back in [the gym] and be able to put all four together against Penn State.âÄù

Freshman Kylie Schermann was awarded Most Valuable Player for Minnesota after producing five personal records. Schermann placed second in both floor exercise and balance beam and also came in third in the all-around competition.

âÄúI had a really good practice this week, so I just got a chance to show it off today,âÄù Schermann said. âÄúWe know weâÄôre a great, strong team. WeâÄôre just putting all of the pieces together right now.âÄù

Other Minnesota top finishers were senior Lucy Ennis (third on uneven parallel bars), senior Briana Jones (tied for second on floor exercise), sophomore Dusti Russell (second in all-around) and sophomore Kayla Slechta (third on vault, first on floor exercise).

The Gophers will compete next against No. 9 Penn State on Jan. 28 at the Sports Pavilion.