We at Dawg Sports have said from the beginning of the season that we have just one goal for this year: Make the Super Six. You can't win a national championship every year, and it would certainly be an unreasonable expectation in this, a rebuilding year for the Dawgs. Historically, however, our program's "floor" has always been making the Super Six. Even if we aren't one of the best teams this school has ever seen, we always make the Super Six. Always. And the lack of that achievement is what led to the departure of Coach Yoculan's successor.
Well, we're back where we belong, folks. In Coach Danna Durante's first season, she has once again led the Georgia Gym Dogs to the NCAA finals.
Due to the nature of a 6-team session, Georgia had 2 byes and 4 competition routines (as did every other team). The Dawgs had a bye in the first rotation, which is generally considered a bad thing since you've gotten all warmed up before the meet and then have to go to your locker room for 30-45 minutes.
Fortunately that "bad bye mojo" didn't seem to affect the Gym Dogs at all when they came out for their bars rotation. They knocked the ball out of the park, with Chelsea Davis carding a 9.95, and 9.90's scored by Brittany Rogers, Shayla Worley, and Christa Tanella. Brandie Jay tacked on a 9.85 for good measure, rounding out the team score of 49.50 on bars. This was huge, and was the second-highest score of any team on any apparatus all day.
Unfortunately, we were going to end up needing that huge score, as the wheels very nearly came off on the balance beam. Beam had been our strongest apparatus over the last month of the season and in the SEC tournament and NCAA regional, but it was by far our weakest today. No Gym Dog scored a 9.9 or better, and we had to count a 9.70 from Brittany Rogers and a 9.775 from Noel Couch enroute to a team score of 48.975. It wasn't disastrous, but it did knock us out of the running for 2nd place, and could have knocked us out of the Super Six altogether if we'd had a better team chasing us.
The Georgia ladies entered then had another bye, and entered the fifth rotation on floor knowing they had a lot of work to do to secure their 3rd place spot. Once again, no Gym Dog scored a 9.9 or better, but all of the scores were consistently good. Noel Couch had the highest score with a 9.875, and we didn't have to count anything lower than a 9.825 as we carded a 49.225 for the rotation. It wasn't the best floor rotation we've ever had, but as an observer, that's all we really had to do in this round. We weren't going to catch Florida or LSU with such a horrible beam rotation, so there was really no reason to "stretch" for it and end up making a mistake that could cost us the Super Six. We "held serve," just like we needed to.
The Gym Dogs went into the sixth and final rotation knowing they just needed a 48.75 on vault to make the Super Six, which was eminently achievable, and they blew it away. Brandie Jay scored a 9.925, and 9.90's were carded by Chelsea Davis and Lindsey Cheek. We also didn't have to count a score lower than 9.85 as we notched a 49.450 to close out the meet.
Georgia's final score was 197.150, and was good enough for 3rd place. Since the top 3 teams from each semifinal session advance to the Super Six, that was all we needed. Here were the final standings from semifinal session 1:
1) Florida - 197.775
2) LSU - 197.325
3) Georgia - 197.150
4) Minnesota - 196.375
5) Illinois - 195.700
6) Stanford - 194.700
If you think those scores look a little low, you're correct. Scores at the national meet are usually a little lower partly because of nerves/tension, but mostly (in my opinion) because the judges call the NCAA national meet a little more tightly than they do other meets. We made it, though... and that's all that counts.
Ok, jingoistic rabble-rousing aside, I also have to at least acknowledge that we got a fortunate draw for this semifinal. We didn't have to beat a team that has a history of being great (Minnesota, Illinois, and Stanford), while the second semifinal (about to start as I type this) is as close to its own "Super Six" as you're ever going to see. That semifinal has Alabama, Oklahoma, UCLA, Utah, Michigan, and Arkansas. That's 3 of the 4 schools who have ever won national championships, plus the team that has traded the #1 ranking with Florida all year (Oklahoma). It's impossible to know if we would have qualified from that group, but that doesn't really matter. We did qualify, and we'll be taking the floor again tomorrow!
We'll be back tomorrow (Saturday) at 7:00 PM ADT (Athens Daylight Time) with a live open-comment thread for the NCAA finals. Join us and cheer on the Gym Dogs!