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Injuries and slow starts are almost as much of a tradition for the Whitefish Bay girls gymnastics team as the numerous state title trophies that fill the cases along the field house wall.

The defending WIAA D2 state champion Blue Dukes opened their season up with a double dual on Dec. 7, and veteran coach Mary Liniewski is taking deep breaths and hoping for the best.

She knows that as long as she has senior returning D2 state all-around champ Aly Yurkowitz, the Blue Dukes have a chance.

"This year, we are off to a rough start in terms of injuries," Liniewski said. "This year at least we have some depth, which helps. We can still hit 141 (points) if we have no more injuries. This would be great. Aly is ahead of schedule and hit a 36.8 (all-around) in her first meet. She also hit a personal best on (uneven) bars) with a 9.45."

The roster includes senior co-captains Yurkowtiz and Jess Fetting; senior Julia Patek; juniors Ellie Dallet and Abby Timms; sophomores Catherine Siebert and Ava Fleming; and freshmen Sarah Kirchner and Meghan Grimm.

But as noted, injuries are proving to be an early issue.

"First Ava (Fleming)  rolled her ankle and was out two weeks; then Sarah (Kirchner) sprained her knee and was out three weeks," Liniewski said. "Now Ellie (Dallet) may have torn her ACL at our first meet. Ugh. We will know more with the results of her MRI."

Even with all these setbacks, Liniewski remains fairly positive.

"The girls are looking good and coming along nicely," she said. "We have a lot of work to do in terms of cleaning up things and learning some new skills, but the girls are up for the challenge. Sarah (Kirchner) will be in the lineup on all four events Thursday, and Ava (Fleming) will do varsity floor. Although Sarah is a bit behind on vault due to her injury, we have plenty of time to get her where she needs to be come February."

Bay won the WIAA D2 state title last March with a 140.56 total, while River Falls was runner-up with 135.88. A short-handed Bay unit hit a 132.975 mark in the dual on Dec. 7.

The Blue Dukes will host a North Shore/Greater Metro Conference double dual on Thursday, Dec. 15, taking on Port Washington in the final meet of the 2016 portion of their season. Liniewski said the team always looks forward to this meet as they perform their routines to holiday music.

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