The Georgia Gym Dogs entered Saturday's meet hoping to rebound from their loss in Gainesville, returning to action on their home floor. And once again, a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd greeted them as they ran out.
The Bulldogs started out on vault, and gave the capacity crowd something to cheer for by building a huge lead from the get-go. Lindsey Cheek carded a season-high 9.95 in her vault, and Cat Hires also busted out with a 9.90. It was an exceptionally strong rotation overall for all the Dawgs, as well, as Georgia didn't have to count a score lower than 9.85(!!) enroute to a team season-high vault score of 49.425. Kentucky opened the meet on uneven bars, and had to count 2 falls enroute to a 47.375 opening stanza.
The Cats and the Dawgs switched apparatuses for the second rotation, and Lindsey Cheek once again led the way with a magnificent 9.95. Cheek was named the SEC Specialist of the Week last week for her outstanding performances on vault and bars in Gainesville, and it looks like she'll be a leading candidate for that same honor this week. Chelsea Davis turned in a 9.925 to add to her impressive season, and Brandie Jay also added a 9.90 with her routine. With these scores and another great overall team effort, the Dawgs put up another stellar bars score, carding a 49.450 for the second rotation and adding to their NCAA-leading team bars average. Kentucky provided a serviceable vault score of 48.850 in their second rotation.
So, at "halftime," Danna's Dawgs led the Gym Cats 98.875 - 96.175. To be honest, Kentucky was never considered to be a serious contender to beat the Gym Dogs, but the Cats are nationally ranked, and we will see them again at the SEC Championships at the end of the season, so it's always good to see your competition face-to-face before it actually counts towards a trophy. Also, as with a few other meets we've seen and will see as the season rolls on, it's important to learn to push yourself to perform your absolute best, no matter what the competition is doing. In the first two rotations, the Gym Dogs did exactly that, which is very encouraging for Bulldog fans.
In the third rotation, the Dawgs took to the balance beam, which had betrayed them last week in Gainesville. And to be honest, the scores tend to make me wonder if we weren't being a little conservative in our routine selection, knowing that we had an outmatched foe and, essentially, just needed to not fall in order to seal the win. (I suppose there's something to be said for using the opportunity to build your team's confidence, as well.) It's also notable that this rotation marked the return of junior Sarah Persinger, who suffered an injury in practice this past fall. It was great to see Sarah back in action, and hopefully she'll be able to continue to improve after an initial 9.775 showing. Overall, no Georgia gymnast carded a 9.90 or better, but the team did turn in a very respectable overall score of 49.150. (This actually ties their second-highest beam score of the season so far, so it's definitely not terrible.) Kentucky performed on floor for the third rotation, and carded their best rotation of the night with a 49.000.
The Gym Dogs once again swapped apparatuses with the Gym Cats for the final rotation, making their way over to the floor exercise. On the floor, Brandie Jay exploded with a 9.95, and Kaylan Earls scored a career-high 9.90. Overall, the Dawgs tied their second-highest score of the season on floor, as well, with a very solid 49.275. Kentucky, unfortunately, absolutely fell apart on the balance beam. They only had 1 gymnast not fall as they limped their way to an abysmal rotation score of 45.725.
When the smoke cleared, the Gym Dogs had put up an excellent overall score of 197.300, which is good for their second-highest score of the season. It must be said, of course, that Kentucky had an uncharacteristically horrible day, but Danna's Dawgs pressed on and continued to improve. That's really the key for a college gymnastics team, too... you want them to continue to improve over the course of the season. Our scores in regular-season meets help to build our position at the end of the season (which is important), but you want to be your best when the NCAA's roll around in April. At this point, we're right on schedule to be very competitive... and that's all you can ask at this point.
This continued improvement is also vital because coming up next is the UGA Gymnastics version of the "Clean Old Fashioned Hate" rivalry... the Alabama Crimson Tide. There is legitimate bad blood between our two programs, going back to the days when Suzanne Yoculan's and Sarah Patterson's squads were regularly finishing 1-2 for the national championship (usually in that order, natch). The Tide are currently ranked #7 in the country, and are coming off of a 196.825 - 197.65 loss yesterday at LSU. With today's score, we'll definitely still be ranked above the Red Elephants next week, and if you're a Gym Dog fan, there's nothing (in the regular season, at least) sweeter than rolling into Tuscaloosa and defeating the Tide on their home floor. The result is by no means a foregone conclusion, however, and you can bet that Coleman Coliseum will be rocking with a hostile crowd that is unlike any other in the country. (Well, it's unlike any other to us, at least, since the crowd at the Steg is on our side!)
The Alabama meet is next Friday, February 7, at 8:30 PM in Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. Come on, Dawgs! We know you can do it!
Finally, we conclude with a cheeky remark: