Can you give us a brief update on each member of the team and what your expectations are for them this season?
Nicole Artz- Nicole is recovering from a minor surgery on her ankle, she should be fine for the season but has had limited training so far this fall. She is a competitor and has lofty goals for her senior year. I expect her to once again be a top all-arounder for us.
Talia Chiarelli- Talia has been looking awesome and is poised to have a great year. She looks as good or better than ever. Her 1 1/2 on vault, her beam, and floor will be outstanding.
Brianna Brown- I believe that Brianna is on a great track right now and getting healthier each day. I think this could be a fantastic year for her. Bars and beam are her highlight events but her floor routine is clean and strong and her vault is getting better each day.
Lauren Marinez- Lauren worked really hard over the summer on strengthening and she is in the best shape I've seen her in. Her beam and bars are rockin' and I look for her to break a floor lineup as well.
Paige Zaziski- Paige is a welcome addition to the team this year, she brings a wealth of competitive experience and can bring in big scores on all events. I'm looking forward to what this season will bring for her.
Olivia Karas- Liv also had a minor wrist surgery but is back on track and looking great already. She is a fantastic all-arounder for us and can put up big scores in all four events. She has no weak events.
Emma McLean- I am really looking forward to seeing Emma in a much bigger role this year. Her beam has improved a great deal and her floor and vault are doing great! Love her floor routine this year and her bars are clean and strong.
Lexi Funk- Lexi has been a little dynamo, she is consistent all the way around. She will provide a high level of depth that we need in all four events. I think we will see her in lineups on all four events during the year.
Maggie O'Hara- We have high expectations for Maggie. Her strongest events are bars and beam, but she has the ability to see herself in any of the four events if she works hard.
Maddy Osman- Maddy is another fireball of energy and performs with explosive power and strong skills in all four events.
Sam Roy- Sam is doing a great job and is improving each day. I'm not sure at this point what events she will make but she is close on at least three. She is a great example of what hard work and determination can do and is a great addition to our team.
Polina Shchennikova- Polina is almost back 100% from her shoulder surgery in May. She is strong and is feeling pretty good too. She is making tremendous strides every day and her progress back to peak shape is right on track. I expect her to make significant contributions this season and peak when we need her to.
Now that it's been a year since the yurchenko full was downgraded, what are your thoughts on that change? Do you think it's a hassle for some of the older girls to learn a new vault at that point in their career?
I think that the 9.95 vaults have been a good first step to providing some benefit to the athletes who are capable of doing the bigger vaults. It wasn't fair that someone taking the risk to do a 1 1/2 or double would have the same start value as a full. If any coach feels that it is a "hassle" to teach our athletes new skills they probably should not be coaching. I would like to see the full go to a 9.9.
It's been awhile since Michigan has qualified to the Super Six, what do you feel needs to be done to get your team back in that position?
I am troubled by the fact that we have not been in the Super Six recently. I believe that we definitely deserved to be and have been good enough to be. Last year we absolutely had a weak beam rotation at the wrong time. We did it to ourselves, but my heart broke for the team. Sometimes it's the luck of the draw in which session you get placed in for NCAA's or what rotation you draw. We have outscored teams that qualified into the Super Six when we did not and that is a tough pill to swallow. Luck definitely hasn't been on our side lately but we need to be performing at a level that keeps us out of the "grey" area. I think that depth plays a big role in our ability to be at our peak going into post season. We are hoping to have a lot more depth this year and be able to rest some people during the season when needed.
What are your goals for this upcoming season?
We want to look good early but we will take our time to make sure we are hitting our stride when it is critical. We have 50% of our team as freshman, so we will allow them to gain experience and confidence as we go through the season.
How has training been going so far?
Training has been going well. We have a great group of amazing young ladies, but like a lot of teams, we have a few coming back from injuries so we have people at different places on the readiness scale. My 28 years has taught me to relax and bring people along as is best for them individually. We will have everyone ready when it is go time! I'm confident in that.
What do you feel will be the teams biggest challenge this season?
We have a lot of youth, but in those athletes we have some good competitive experience so only time will tell. It is always an interesting puzzle that we get to put together each year.
Based off preseason so far, what do you think will be the teams strongest and weakest events?
I really believe we will have a pretty good balance on all four events. We may have a touch more depth on beam and bars but that also remains to be seen.
What are you going to miss the most about your seniors Talia and Nicole after this season?
Everything! They have been two of the hardest working and most consistent athletes I have had in a long time. Gosh, don't make me think about that already!
To stay up to date with the latest on your Michigan Wolverines, make sure you're following @UMichWGym on Twitter and Assistant Coach Dave Kuzara on Instagram (@davkuz) for training videos.