The Georgia Gym Dogs started their 2014 season last weekend with a pair of road meets at Oklahoma and Stanford. Their initial performance in Norman concluded with a 196.500 team score, which is not bad for the first meet of the season, but unfortunately they took a step back against the Cardinal in Palo Alto with a 196.150, primarily on the heels of a disastrous floor rotation.
All things are relative, though, and Georgia's "mediocre" first two meet scores are still good enough to land them in 9th place in the most recent NCAA Gymnastics rankings (which are mathematically calculated). Of our first two opponents, Oklahoma is #1 and Stanford is #12, which attests both to OU's consistency and the Cardinal's inconsistency over their first two meets. The SEC, as usual, is loaded with elite gymnastics programs this year, so our 9th-place ranking is only good for 4th in the conference behind LSU, Alabama, and Florida. Clearly, we have some improvements to make.
Danna's Dawgs will be looking to start showing off those improvements tonight in their first home meet of the season (which will also be their SEC opener) against #2-ranked LSU and their star Rheagan Courville, who is currently ranked #1 in the national all-around standings. The Bayou Bengal tumblers are led by longtime coach D-D Breaux, and their associate head coach is former UGA head man Jay Clark. Coach Clark got some measure of revenge on his old squad last year when the Gym Dogs visited Baton Rouge, so the Dawgs will be looking to best their former assistant and head coach on his first return to Athens.
One of the most notable items about the first two meets of the year is the extent to which Coach Durante is utilizing her underclassmen. On a team so stocked with returning All-Americans and performers from 2013, one might normally expect many of those gymnasts to be mostly performing in their old roles. Instead, Coach Durante has sent out freshmen and sophomores to perform 28 of the total 48 routines that have been completed in this young season, which shows that she has a lot of faith in her younger athletes, and that she's not afraid of experimenting early in the season with her lineup. (This also reflects her general attitude towards setting her rotations last year, when participants and the rotations in which they competed fluctuated significantly during the first half of the season.) It's also worth noting that arguably the 2 best gymnasts on the team, Brittany Rogers and Brandie Jay, are sophomores, so that helps the math, as well. (If my calculations are correct, Rogers and Jay combined for 14 of those 28 underclassmen routines.)
Our gymnastics program has historically had a fantastic fanbase... in fact, it's not at all uncommon for the Gym Dogs to outdraw the men's basketball team on a per-meet/game basis. So, if you're going to be in the Athens area tonight and want to watch a great event and be around a few thousand of your fellow Bulldog fans, come on by Stegeman Coliseum and cheer on your Gym Dogs! Also, if it will be your first meet, don't forget to brush up on the basics by checking out the college gymnastics primer!
The meet starts at 7:30 PM, and there is no live TV or radio broadcast. A subscription-based live video feed will be available at georgiadogs.com during the meet, and FSN will be broadcasting the meet on a tape-delay on January 25.