The Gym Dogs came into this meet on a high, after rising to #7 in the NCAA gymnastics rankings following their defeat of Missouri. Unfortunately, they also came into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge without star senior Noel Couch, who suffered a leg injury in practice during the week and was held out of the meet. We would definitely miss her performance and leadership throughout the night.
LSU came into the meet ranked #5, which means they'd consistently had higher scores than the Dawgs all year. We would have to be at our best to beat the Tigers without our star performer... and unfortunately, despite a solid performance, we didn't quite get there.
(A little side note on strategery here: In college gymnastics, every team has their strong and weak events. To beat the best teams, you have to knock the ball out of the park on your strong rotations and still put in a solid score on your weak rotations. The Gym Dogs did well on the latter tonight, but did not accomplish the former.)
Georgia started the meet on the uneven bars. Chelsea Davis and Freshman Brittany Rogers both carded scores of 9.90, and we didn't have to count a score lower than 9.80 enroute to a solid rotation total of 49.250. Unfortunately, we needed to do better in this, one of our two best events. LSU turned in a stellar score on vault of 49.50, and they led after the first rotation.
The Dawgs and the Tigers switched sides for the second rotation, and though the vault has been Georgia's strongest apparatus on the year, it was not on this night. Chelsea Davis turned in a 9.90, but only one other Gym Dog turned in even a 9.85 (Lindsey Cheek) as the team carded a disappointing (for our level of competition) rotation score of 49.20. LSU, in contrast, had a strong beam rotation of 49.30, and, once again, the meet was practically over at halftime.
The score at the turn was LSU 98.8 - 98.45, which is not, technically, an insurmountable lead. When you consider the fact that Georgia trailed after its two strongest apparatuses, however, the writing on the wall could clearly be seen. We would have had to turn in our best beam and floor rotations of the year, and LSU would have to stumble on at least one of those rotations.
Once the third rotation began, however, it looked like we might be seeing a ray of light for the Gym Dogs. LSU, competing on beam, had no gymnasts score a 9.90 or better and had to count a 9.65 enroute to a very poor (for them) rotation score of 48.875. We had our opening. Unfortunately, the Dawgs failed to fully capitalize, as no UGA gymnast scored a 9.90 or better on floor. (Christa Tanella came closest with a 9.875.) Danna's Dawgs turned in a 49.150 on the floor, and we went into our beam rotation still trailing the Tigers.
In a twist of irony, the beam rotation was probably the highest point of the entire evening for UGA, considering our past history with the event. Senior Shayla Worley scored a 9.90, and we didn't have to count a score lower than a 9.75 enroute to a rotation score of 49.225. This represented our second-highest beam score of the year, and turned out to be our second-best apparatus of the night. LSU turned in a very strong floor rotation of 49.375, however, sealing their victory.
No one is going to be happy with losing, but as there has been all season, we once again see reason for hope for the future for Danna's Dawgs in Coach Durante's first year. We didn't get humiliated or anything... we just turned in an uneven performance against a team that made us pay for it. We had a very good beam rotation tonight, but managed to let our poor scores on vault and uneven bars pull us down. Even so, depending on how the scores shake out at the NCAA's, a 196.825 is right in the range we'll need to be at to make the Super Six. On top of that, we carded that score in a hostile road environment, which bodes well as an experience-builder for us and our relatively young team.
No one likes losing, but I think we're still on track. If we can get Noel Couch healthy over the next couple of weeks heading into the SEC and NCAA tournaments, we will be right in the position we want to be this year. We're putting in consistently good scores, and if we can put together a great rotation on even 3 of the 4 apparatuses in one meet, we could post a very good overall number.
Georgia's next-to-last regular season meet is next Saturday, March 9, against the eighth-ranked Utah Red Rocks at home in Stegeman Coliseum. (Yes, they call their gymnastics team the Red Rocks. No, I'm not exactly sure why.) Kickoff is at 6:00 PM.
If you're in town, come and support your Gym Dogs as they prepare for the run-up to the postseason!