Fresh off of their tie with top-ranked Florida, the Gym Dogs journeyed to Baton Rouge this evening to take on L.S.U. at the site of their only loss in Georgia's last 17 regular-season conference road meets.
The Red and Black began the first rotation on the bars, in which five Georgia gymnasts earned a 9.85 or better, led by Grace Taylor's 9.9. The Gym Dogs' 49.325 team score in the meet's opening stanza surpassed the 49.2 posted by the home team in the vault on the strength of Ashleigh Clare-Kearne's closing 9.925 mark.
That's Clare-Kearne, not to be confused with Claire Huxtable. (Photograph from Progressive Boink.)
Suzanne Yoculan's squad drew the vault in the second rotation. This has been a strength of the Georgia squad, as the Gym Dogs' team average of 49.3 in that event led the nation coming into tonight's meet. The Red and Black fell just short of matching that mark on the bayou, riding Katie Heenan's 9.9 and Tiffany Tolnay's 9.875 to a 49.25 team tally. In the meantime, Louisiana State managed a 49.075 on the bars after Clare-Kearne faltered, earning a 9.2 score.
Accordingly, the visiting team proceeded to the third rotation with a 98.575-98.275 lead. There the Gym Dogs put forth a solid effort in the floor exercise, capped off by Courtney McCool's career-high 9.95, to register a 49.425 score which far outpaced the 48.75 mark posted by L.S.U. on the beam and gave the Red and Black an advantage of nearly a full point at the outset of the meet's final frame.
In gymnastics, a one-point lead in the fourth rotation is impressive. In football, a one-point lead in the fourth quarter probably means Doug Gillett needs a new toaster oven.
The fourth rotation began auspiciously enough for Georgia, as Taylor's and Megan Dowlen's event-opening performances on the balance beam netted both gymnasts 9.9 marks. Courtney Kupets subsequently matched that score, as well, and the Gym Dogs cruised to a 49.425 team mark in the event.
A solid exhibition in the floor exercise by the home team, highlighted by Clare-Kearne's meet-ending 9.95, enabled Louisiana State to earn a 49.425 in the fourth rotation, as well, but the gap was too great for the host squad to overcome, as the 197.425 posted by the visitors gave them the win over L.S.U. (196.45).
With six regular-season meets down and five remaining, the undefeated Gym Dogs again look like contenders for top national honors, but the Red and Black's stretch run includes showdowns with Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, U.C.L.A., and Utah . . . all of which were preseason top 20 teams and four of which were ranked in the top six. Stay tuned, because, beginning with February 10's home meet against Alabama, this gymnastics season will start to get very interesting.