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Georgia Gym Dogs 196.975, Kentucky Wildcats 195.15

I apologize in advance to the two teams I am sure are being slighted by this posting. The first is the Georgia men’s basketball team, which beat the Gators today. (It’s not that I’m not impressed by the feat---I am---but, frankly, I am so baffled by this turn of events that I truly do not know what to say except, "Go ‘Dawgs!")

The second team to whom I am giving short shrift is the Centenary women’s gymnastics team, which participated in the tri-meet in Lexington which was won by the Gym Dogs on Friday evening. I’m sure the Centenary ladies are fine student-athletes who are working hard, but, quite honestly, they finished with a 188.025 for the meet, so I am going to confine my focus to the two teams actually in contention last night; viz., Georgia and Kentucky.

Courtney Kupets carded the high score for the Red and Black on the uneven bars during the first rotation. Her 9.95, together with a 9.925 from Grace Taylor and a 9.9 from Tiffany Tolnay, contributed to a 49.475 effort which gave the Georgia gymnasts the early lead over the Wildcats, who chalked a 48.975 in the vault.

In the second stanza, the Bulldogs took up station on the balance beam, where Kathryn Ding’s fall during her flight series proved harmless, as her teammates notched a cumulative 49.175, led by Kupets’s 9.9. On the bars, U.K. managed a 48.55.

Georgia spent the third rotation competing in the floor exercise. Kupets again excelled to earn a 9.9, with Taylor receiving a 9.85, as well. The Gym Dogs’ combined 49.15 exceeded the 48.575 tallied by the Cats on the beam.

The Red and Black put together another 49.15 in the fourth rotation, where Ding redeemed her earlier error by posting a 9.9 in the vault. Kentucky’s floor exercise was given a 49.05 to award the visiting Gym Dogs a 196.975-195.15 victory over the hometown Wildcats.* To no one’s surprise, Courtney Kupets yet again led the individual scoring with an overall mark of 39.575.

As with today’s shocking basketball score, there is only so much it is wise to read into Friday’s gymnastics result. Kentucky is a marginal top 30 team and Centenary is not a top 50 team, so Georgia should have won handily against each of them. Nevertheless, 8-0 overall and 4-0 in S.E.C. play is no small achievement, and the signs are starting to become encouraging, as noted in Suzanne Yoculan’s post-meet remarks:

I thought we did well tonight. We were a little up and down, but just little bumps and not deep holes. It’s a process and we keep putting the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s nice to have back-to-back good meets, which we haven’t done since early in the season. It was nice to get back on track. We still have a lot of tweaking to do; nothing major, just some little things.

Those are not the words of a coach who is too demanding ever to come away from any competition pleased with her team’s performance; anyone who has ever seen Coach Yoculan’s reaction on the floor whenever one of her gymnasts does well knows that she is as capable of celebrating achievements as she is of critiquing shortcomings.

Rather, those are the words of a championship coach who knows the expectation of excellence is warranted and is determined to guide her student-athletes towards becoming the best that they are capable of being. Next Friday night, the Gym Dogs will begin a four-meet stretch run against Arkansas, Florida, U.C.L.A., and Michigan. The current rankings have those teams seventh, ninth, second, and 16th, respectively. We’re about to find out whether Georgia has another championship-worthy team.

* Yes, I realize that the scores are not adding up, but I have checked and re-checked them, and I cannot figure out where the error is, so I am faithfully reporting the scores as they have been quoted on, with the expectation that they will be corrected there subsequently.

Go ‘Dawgs!