For the first time in the 2016 season, the #1 Florida Gators have been defeated. And it was the Georgia Gym Dogs that did the deed.
Now, if you look into the details, you'll see that the Gators gave it away just as much as the Gym Dogs took it, but you know what? I don't care. We just beat Florida, and I hate Florida with the fire of a thousand suns fueled by the fire of an additional thousand suns. WE. BEAT. FLORIDA. Tonight, that's enough for me.
Just for kicks, though, let's look at how the meet unfolded, because the comeback the Gym Dogs mounted can only be described as "epic."
To start the meet, as usual for the home team, Danna's Dawgs took to the vault while the Sunshine State Gym Saurians went to the uneven bars. And though the vault is usually one of our best events, we actually had an uncharacterisic "off" night. We only really had 1 stuck landing, and stuck landings are everything on the vault. Brandie Jay led the scoring with a 9.875, but we only had 2 scores in the 9.8 range at all as the team only managed a 49.000 on the first rotation of the night. That surprisingly low total, combined with the Gym Saurians' 49.325 on bars, caused all of my old "losing badly to Florida" triggers to fire again, and I started spiraling downwards. (If you don't believe me, just go check my twitter timeline.)
On the second rotation, however, the Bulldogs moved to the uneven bars, and they didn't allow their subpar vault performance to affect them in the least. Brandie Jay once again led the scoring with a huge 9.925 (Which, honestly, could have even been higher,) and freshman sensation Sydney Snead also added a 9.90. Overall, Danna's Dawgs didn't have to count a score lower than 9.80 as they carded a 49.325 on bars, matching the total Florida had put up on bars in their first rotation. The Saurians also added a 49.275 on their vault rotation, going into "halftime" of the meet with a 98.600-98.325 lead.
Even if the Gym Dogs had been leading at the halfway mark, we would have been nervous going into the beam rotation. As it stood, however, we were down by almost 3-tenths. We had no room to spare in the scoring, and we couldn't afford another disaster on beam like we've seen so many times this season.
Unfortunately, the beam rotation started on a sour note, as Natalie Vaculik fell on the first routine of the event. Our seniors picked up the middle of the rotation with good, but not great scores, and then our fourth gymnast on beam, Vivi Babalis, actually fell twice during her routine. Mary Beth Box put in her usual amazing job in the anchor role that led the scoring with a 9.85, but we still had to count Vaculik's 9.275, and only managed a 48.45 on the beam rotation. (The really sad thing is that this score is 2-tenths higher than our season average on beam, so this will actually bring *up* our average for that event.)
Surprisingly, Florida had an incredibly poor (for them) 49.075 score on their floor rotation, but we still went into the final rotation of the night trailing the #1 team in the country by 9-tenths of a point, 147.675-146.775. To win this meet, we needed to have an amazing floor rotation, and we needed Florida to have a very poor beam rotation. Well, as it turns out...
There are no words I can use to describe how incredible our floor rotation was on this night. Sydney Snead led off the proceedings, and was absolutely robbed of a 9.90, only being awarded a 9.875 by the judges. Still, that's a career high for her young Gym Dogs tenure. Next, Vivi Babalis, on a bum elbow through which she's been fighting all season, tied her career high with a 9.90. Then, Brittany Rogers did the damn thing and scored a career-high 9.95. On her heels, Gigi Marino threw down with another 9.95, also a career high for her. Mary Beth Box wrapped up the huge scoring party with another exceptional performance and ANOTHER 9.95. As it turned out, Brandie Jay's final routine score of 9.80 was the score we dropped on the night, and we counted THREE 9.95's as the Gym Dogs put up a monumental floor rotation score of 49.625. Only one team all season has put up a higher floor rotation score... and it was the team we were facing tonight (which tells you just how poor of a night they had on floor).
On top of our incredible floor routine, the Gym Saurians were having their worst beam routine of the year, as they had two gymnasts fall (so they had to count one) and didn't have any 9.9's. Florida, who was previously #1 in the country on beam with an average rotation score of 49.388, put up a beam rotation of 48.675 on this night. Their faltering steps on floor and beam provided us with the tiniest of openings, and in spite of our own missteps on vault and beam, we capitalized with our best floor rotation in years to provide the final winning margin of 196.400-196.350.
In her post-meet remarks, Coach Danna Durante hit exactly the right notes with these comments:
It just goes to show you the meet is never over. You never take yourself out of it. You have times when you struggle, no question, but it's how you react to that. Are you going to bounce back or are you going to let it keep you down? That's what this team is made of. This team is capable of anything. I told them this week, individually you guys can fly, but as a team, you are made to soar. I'm so excited to see this team put it together.
Look, Florida had a big off night. But hell, we had an off night, too, on vault. We overcame our obstacles and lived up to the potential we've been showing for weeks on the floor, and we won the damn thing. We beat Florida. That's all you gotta say, and I'm sold. We. Beat. Florida. Last week, I said this team was good enough to compete with any team in the country. Even on an off-night, we proved it tonight. We beat the #1-ranked team in the country. We have the tools. This team is loaded. Our goals are all still in front of us.
The Gym Dogs' next meet will be next Saturday, Feb. 13, at home vs. #6 LSU. The meet will start at 4:00 PM and will be streamed live on ESPN3.com through the SEC Network+ streaming package.