On Friday night, the tenth-ranked Georgia gymnastics squad took the floor in Salt Lake City for its second straight road meet against a higher-ranked perennial power in the sport. This time, the Red and Black faced the No. 6 Utah Utes, but the result was the same as the Bulldogs came up short in a tight 196.55-196.5 contest.
The Rolling Rocks got the better of the Gym Dogs in the vault, where Kat Ding’s 9.875 and Hilary Mauro’s 9.85 paced a 49.15 effort that was insufficient to overcome the 49.325 posted in the event by the host squad. On the bars, however, Ding put up a 9.9 and Courtney McCool carded a 9.875 along the way to a 49.25 team score that surpassed Utah’s 49.0.
McCool earned a 9.9 in the floor exercise, but the Bulldogs were forced to count Noel Couch’s 9.525 in that same event, resulting in an overall 48.775 mark that fell short of the Utes’ 49.125 after Daria Bijak received a 9.95. Georgia’s shot at victory came down to the beam, where strong performances by McCool (9.925), Grace Taylor (9.9), and Mauro (9.875) allowed the Gym Dogs to compile a 49.325 score. While this exceeded the Rolling Rocks’ 49.1 tally, it was not enough to put the visitors over the top.
If there is any solace to be taken in this result, it stems from three facts. First of all, Georgia lost to top-six teams representing national championship programs in consecutive meets away from Stegeman Coliseum. Secondly, the Gym Dogs have improved each week, from 195.15 against Stanford to 195.5 against Alabama to 196.5 against Utah. Finally, the Red and Black did not quit, staging what very nearly was a successful comeback in the final rotation. The Utes won it on the performance of their final gymnast of the night.
Those, though, are considerations for fans who wish to look for silver linings, and University of Georgia athletics have taught me my lesson where optimism is concerned. Fortunately, next Friday evening’s meet is against Auburn, to whom Suzanne Yoculan never lost---literally, not once---in her coaching career in Athens. That "must win" meet ought to be quite winnable.