As the 8th-ranked Gym Dogs rolled into Chapel Hill to conclude their 3-week road trip, the question of whether or not they were going to win was never really in doubt. North Carolina isn't ranked in the top 25 overall, and is only ranked in the top 25 in one individual event (uneven bars, where they're 22nd). What we wanted to see was a continued step in the right direction for Georgia as they build up to the postseason. Unfortunately, that's not exactly what we got.
(Note: Since the meet was at an ACC school... well, technically EAGL, since the ACC doesn't sponsor gymnastics (LOLACC)... there was no SEC Network coverage. So, my recap of the rotations themselves will be pretty bland, since I didn't actually get to see them.)
In front of tens and tens of fans at Carmichael Arena (Seriously? LOLACC), Danna's Dawgs started on bars, as is customary for the visiting team. We started off relatively slowly with surprisingly low scores from the normally-solid Kiera Brown (9.75) and Sarah Persinger (9.65), but the rest of the squad picked up the slack, and Chelsea Davis brought it home with a huge 9.925 in the anchor spot. The Gym Dogs tallied 49.225 in the bars rotation, which is lower than we'd normally like to see for our best apparatus. The Tar Heels started on vault and scored 48.600.
For the second rotation, Georgia went over to the vault, and once again started with a couple of scores below that 9.8 mark that we want to see as our absolute minimum. Fortunately, we also closed strong on this rotation, with Ashlyn Broussard and Brittany Rogers both coming up with 9.90's. The Dawgs carded a 49.250 for this rotation, with UNC showing a 48.825 on bars. At halftime, the Gym Dogs led 98.475 - 97.425.
In the third rotation, we moved to the floor exercise. Unfortunately, our early-rotation malaise seemed to continue, with Gigi Marino managing only a 9.70. (I suspect that this is the meet she tried to upgrade her tumbling rotation to the top level and didn't quite hit that pass. That's just a guess, though.) The other freshman performing on floor, Vivi Babalis, also managed only a 9.70, and that combined with no 9.9-level scores from anyone else pulled our overall floor score down to a 49.100. Not terrible, but not very good, either. UNC's scores on beam were messed up for the entire meet on the live scoring app, but from the post-meet score sheet, it appears that Josselyn Mackey was injured on her vault (she got a 8.95), and she was substituted for on the beam rotation by Lauren Weisel. I hope that's not why Mackey was substituted, but if it is, we wish Josselyn all the best for a speedy recovery. The Tar Heels' final beam score was 48.625.
Going into our final rotation on beam, Danna's Dawgs had a fairly decent meet going... not great, but not terrible, either. Unfortunately, our beam nightmares once again came back to haunt us. Our first competitor, Natalie Vaculik (who had been very solid up until this point), started with a fall (and a 9.25). Brittany Rogers answered with a 9.90 on the very next routine, providing some of that upperclassman leadership that we've been hoping to see from her. Her teammates seemed to feed off of that, with Morgan Reynolds, Vivi Babalis, and Ashlyn Broussard carding a 9.75, 9.80, and 9.875, respectively, after her. Unfortunately, our anchor, Mary Beth Box, also fell, which meant we had to count a fall. With Box's 9.30, that dragged our beam score down to 48.625, which is how we arrived at the final score of 196.200.
Overall, this was a step back, particularly on beam. In this meet, we had, essentially, a glorified scrimmage against an overmatched opponent. It was a chance to swing for the fences and put up a high score in a low-pressure environment. Instead, we put up a 196.200. If Box or Vaculik hadn't fallen on beam, we'd probably have been in the 196.7 range, which is right around (but just below) where we've been the last 3 meets... but that's the whole point of the college gymnastics game. Consistency from every member of the team is key.
If you're looking for a couple of "silver linings," today's score is still above our average in the rankings, so it'll pull that up a little bit. Also, the fact that our ladies have performed better this year when they're under some pressure and in front of a large crowd actually is probably a good thing, since they'll be seeing both of those things the rest of the year. We need to be able to perform our best when the lights are brightest, and the environment we were in today is pretty much the exact opposite of that. And until we get to the postseason, there won't be a more raucous crowd or a more pressure-packed situation than what they're going to be seeing next week.
The Gym Dogs' next meet is this Friday, 2/20, and is our biggest regular-season meet of the year. We'll be hosting our arch-rivals, the Alabama Crimson Tide, in our annual grudge match. The Gym Tide are in their first season without Sarah Patterson, and they're currently ranked #6. It wouldn't matter if these squads were both unranked, though... this is our biggest gymnastics rivalry, and the sold-out Steg should be rockin'. The meet will start at 7:00 PM, and will be televised live on the SEC Network.