First, the good news... and on this night, virtually all the news was good. Danna's 10th-ranked Dawgs won the NCAA Berkeley Regional on Saturday night, taking down their 24th NCAA Regional title and qualifying for their 31st NCAA national meet. In doing so, they defeated the 3rd-ranked Utah Red Rocks, our biggest non-conference rival, for the second time this season. Not only that, but those two victories are the only two losses Utah has on its record this season. Very impressive work by the Gym Dogs!
Now, the bad news. Fortunately for us, it was bad news for literally every team that was competing in the Berkeley Regional. Somebody spread butter on the balance beam or something before the meet. (Somebody make sure that DaveTheDawg wasn't in attendance!) There were competitors falling everywhere left and right on the beam. In fact, out of 42 total competitors on the beam in this meet, only 9 ladies had a score higher than 9.80. And there was only 1 score of 9.90 all night (Utah's Georgia Dabritz, who also took the all-around title). Every full team that was competing had to count at least 1 fall or major stumble, which is astonishing in an NCAA meet.
Because of the 6-team format of the meet, the Gym Dogs started out with a bye, and then began their meet on bars in the second rotation. Senior Chelsea Davis and Junior Brittany Rogers led the way on the bars, both carding scores of 9.90. The Dawgs didn't have to count a score lower than 9.825 enroute to a team bars score of 49.325.
We then moved to the beam rotation, where unfortunately a fall from Kiera Brown and a near-fall from Morgan Reynolds meant that we would have to count the 9.625 carded by the sophomore from Athens. Still, though, all of the other Gym Dogs scored in the 9.8+ range, and that would be good enough for a team score of 48.950, which would normally be causing me to pull out my hair in a NCAA regional meet. On this night, however, with every team having major beam troubles, the 48.950 was actually the best beam rotation of the meet. That just blows my mind. Seriously, it makes me think that something was technically wrong with Cal's beam apparatus to have so many gymnasts screwing up so badly on it.
Of course, we didn't know immediately after our beam rotation that we'd carded the best score any team would see on the night, so we were probably sweating more than a little bit as we waited through our bye in the following round. But it didn't show on the sixth rotation, as we came out on floor and continued the dominant performances that we started showing near the end of the regular season. Vivi Babalis came out and scored a career-high 9.90, and every other competitor came dang close to that mark. The lowest score we had to count was a 9.85 as Danna's Dawgs tallied 49.350 in their floor rotation.
To close out the night, the Dawgs moved over to vault, and their hard work over the last 2 weeks was evident in this rotation as much (if not more than) anywhere else, as star pair Chelsea Davis and Brittany Rogers again carded 9.90's to lead the team. And once again in this rotation, the Dawgs didn't have to count a score lower than 9.85 as they carded a 49.400, which was their best rotation of the night.
When the smoke had cleared, the Georgia Bulldogs stood victorious with a 197.025. Eclipsing that 197 mark on a night when we actually counted a fall on beam is really quite astounding. We blew all of the other 3 rotations out of the water, and really came up huge when the lights were shining brightest, which is a big deal for me. It's also worthy of note that the 197.025 score is the 6th-highest of any team from any regional qualifying meet, so we've already put ourselves in the realm of expectation of qualifying for the Super Six.
There's no looking back now for this team. It's Super Six or bust. They appear to be coming together at the right time, and Danna Durante is showing us how wrong we were to doubt this team just a few weeks ago. If we can keep it together on beam at the national meet, we are clearly capable of putting together a truly special score and making a real impact at the NCAA national championship meet in Fort Worth.
The next meet for the Gym Dogs is the NCAA national championship meet in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 17-19. The semifinal meet will be held over two sessions on April 17, and the Super Six team final will be held on the night of April 18. The individual event national championships will be decided on April 19.
Because of the bracket system the NCAA has been using for the past couple of years now, we know that UGA will be in the first semifinal session on 4/17, starting at 2:00 PM. The teams in that session will be:
- #10 Georgia
- #3 Utah
- #2 Florida
- #11 Stanford
- #7 UCLA
- #6 Michigan
The teams in the evening semifinal session will be:
- #1 Oklahoma
- #5 Alabama
- #8 Auburn
- #4 LSU
- #9 Nebraska
- #12 Oregon State
There are no real surprises here, as all 12 seeded teams advanced from the regionals. But still, it's rather fortunate for us that we don't have to face any SEC team other than Florida (who defeated us in Gainesville earlier this season). We will have yet another rematch with Utah, and we'll also be facing a Michigan team that defeated us in the first meet of the season in Stegeman Coliseum, so there will still be some familiarity there.
The top 3 teams in each semifinal session will advance to the Super Six (not the top 6 scores overall, but the top 3 from each session). So we have to beat 4 of the teams in our semifinal session. If we hold the form we saw in regionals and pull it together on beam, that's a very achievable goal. So in spite of all that's happened to us this season, we're still looking at being able to meet our base expectation of Super Six or bust every single year. And if we make the Super Six... well, it's literally all in front of us from there.
If you're going to be in the DFW area 2 weekends from now, go get yourself some tickets to cheer on the Gym Dogs! If not, then watch my twitter account for a link to the NCAA online stream for the event. It might be posted at NCAA.com, but who the heck knows. I'll forward the information as soon as I have it, though.
Great job, Dawgs! Winning the regional against the #3 team in the country is a major first step, especially since we had to overcome some adversity in the process. Let's get it done at nationals! Until then...