Certainly, we had reason for hope. Our scores had been more consistently positive over the past few weeks, and we even put in a strong beam rotation for once against the Bayou Bengals last week. Still, however, we had not yet outscored a team above us in the polls. After last week's loss to a good LSU team, we actually fell one spot in the (statistically-calculated) polls to #8. Utah, conversely, jumped us in the polls to #7. So, once again, we were coming into our last home meet of the year against a higher-ranked team. And, oh by the way, we hadn't beaten Utah in any meet since 2009.
This time, however, our ladies game through in magnificent fashion on Senior Night and they earned their highest score of the year, demolishing the Utah Red Rocks, 197.650- 196.975, in front of a home crowd of 9,941. And on top of all that, they still did it without all-everything senior Noel Couch, who was still out with an injury.
Danna's Dawgs started the evening on vault, which has been their best apparatus of the year, and did not disappoint. Freshman Brittany Rogers scored a 9.95, a season (and, by default career) high for her, and vault specialist Lindsey Cheek also scored a 9.95. Cat Hires carded a 9.90, and no Gym Dog scored lower than an 9.85 enroute to a sky-high first rotation score of 49.525. Utah turned in a 49.225 on their first rotation on the uneven bars, and the rout was on.
The teams switched sides for the second rotation, and the Dawgs took to the uneven bars while the Red Rocks went to the vault. Chelsea Davis was the high-scorer on bars tonight, turning in a 9.95, which was complimented by Senior Christa Tanella's 9.925. This was a career high for Christa, who turned in a fine Stegeman Coliseum finale, and the Gym Dogs rode those high scores to a 49.375 second rotation. Utah carded a 49.350 on the vault, and at "haltime" the Gym Dogs held a commanding 98.900-98.575 lead.
The last two rotations are always the ones our ladies have struggled with, however, so we were rightly holding our collective breath a little as we entered the second half of the meet. Georgia's third rotation on beam, however, was both workmanlike and consistent, providing exactly what we have needed all year out of our weakest apparatus: a consistently good score. No gymnasts scored a 9.9 or better, but 4 of the 5 scores we counted were 9.875, from Senior Shayla Worley and Brittany Rogers, Kaylan Earls, and Lindsey Cheek. Our fifth score was a 9.725, and we rounded out beam with a very respectable (I'd even say "very good" for our team) 49.225. If we can turn in that beam score every meet, we could have something very special on our hands. Utah carded an equal 49.225 score on their floor rotation, and we headed into the final rotation needing to merely maintain our lead of 148.125-147.800 to defeat a higher-ranked opponent for the first time this year.
And, whoo boy, was it a hell of a final rotation. Senior Shayla Worley closed out her Stegeman career with a superlative floor routine, which earned her a 9.95. 9.90 scores were also earned by Sarah Persinger and Freshmen Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers, as Georgia turned in a season-high floor score of 49.525. Utah carded a beam score of 49.175 on their final rotation, and the home crowd started celebrating.
In addition to posting their highest score of the season tonight, Danna's Dawgs also defeated a team ranked above them for the first time all season, defeated Utah for the first time since 2009, and posted the highest combined team score ever (that would be ever ever, like Suzanne Yoculan-ever) against Utah in a dual meet. And let's not forget that Utah isn't some set of chumps who came rolling into town. They are a collegiate gymnastics powerhouse, and their score of 196.975 is, objectively, a very good score. It might, itself, be enough to make the Super Six at the NCAA's. We'll be seeing this Red Rocks team again.
This is not a minor achievement, my friends. This is big... very big. We're coming together as a team, shoring up our weakest rotations while consistently hitting our best ones... and all near the end of the season. Surely, if ever there was any doubt before, it should be clear that the Super Six is definitely within our grasp this year if we perform our best when the lights are shining brightest.
The Gym Dogs have one more meet this year, at NC State next week, before the SEC Tournament in North Little Rock, Arkansas, on March 23. Peaking at the right time, folks... peaking at the right time!