The eighth-ranked Gym Dogs arrived in the so-called Loveliest Village on Friday night trailing a two-meet losing streak and needing a win in the worst way. Based upon past performance, Georgia could not have picked a better opponent than Auburn under such circumstances, as the Orange and Blue were 0-3 for the season and the Red and Black were 64-0 all-time against the Tigers. Those ledgers changed to 1-3 and 64-1 as Jay Clark fell to 0-1 against a squad Suzanne Yoculan absolutely owned.
The competition began with Georgia on the bars and Auburn on the vault. Hops and steps of various sizes marred the landings of every Tiger gymnast except Allyson Sandusky, resulting in a 48.95 tally, but similar deficiencies at the ends of Courtney McCool’s, Marcia Newby’s, and Shayla Worley’s routines kept any of the visitors from scoring above a 9.85. Consequently, the Red and Black posted a cumulative 48.875 and trailed after the first rotation.
The Athenians and the Alabamians then switched places. Marks of 9.8 by Hilary Mauro and 9.85 by Kat Ding paced a second straight 48.875 effort by the Gym Dogs in the vault while the home team notched the 48.75 on the bars that allowed Georgia to take a slim 97.75-97.7 edge at the halfway point.
Auburn proceeded to the balance beam, where a fall by Kylie Shields limited the Tigers to an overall 48.7. Meanwhile, Georgia’s turn in the floor exercise produced a fall by Gina Nuccio followed by a 9.8 by Mauro, a 9.875 by McCool, and a 9.8 by Grace Taylor en route to a combined 48.825 for the rotation. The Gym Dogs’ lead stood at 146.575-146.4 heading into the final leg of the competition.
The visitors took to the beam and the home team moved to the floor exercise. The Tigers earned only one score above 9.775, but the Bulldogs, despite carding marks of 9.825 from Noel Couch and 9.85 from McCool, were hampered by falls from Ding and Taylor. This allowed the Alabamians to edge their guests 48.825-48.325 for the rotation and 195.225-194.9 for the meet.
Counting all six scores in each rotation, Georgia carded three marks of 9.75 or below in the vault, four on the bars, four on the beam, and three on the floor, while Auburn earned four such scores in the vault, four on the bars, three on the beam, and four on the floor. This was an awful effort by the Gym Dogs against an opponent that is mediocre at best.
Losses to Alabama and Utah, while frustrating, at least were understandable; the Crimson Tide and the Rolling Rocks are ranked first and third in the country, respectively. Falling to Auburn, though, is unconscionable, unforgivable, and unprecedented.
Despite the absence of Courtney Kupets from the lineup, Coach Yoculan hardly left the cupboard bare for Coach Clark: Georgia returned nine letter winners, including six all-Americans, from the 2009 squad that won a fifth straight national championship.
There will be no sixth straight national championship. At this rate, there may not even be an NCAA Regional appearance. I noted after the Red and Black’s lone win of the young season that "a 195.15 score won’t win many meets against the Gym Dogs’ schedule." Well, a 194.9 score won’t win any, not even against a team that previously had lost to the Athenians 64 times in 64 tries.
The dynasty ended when Suzanne Yoculan retired. Now it remains to be seen whether Jay Clark can rebuild what he was unable to preserve. Barring such an unlikely turnaround, we will be forced to conclude that we just replaced the Bear Bryant of women’s gymnastics with the Mike Shula of women’s gymnastics.
I hate Auburn.