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Gym Dogs lose to Utah, 197.675-197.125

Danna's Dawgs team put up a score in the 197's for the third straight meet, but lost for the fifth straight meet.

Getting shafted by the judges on the floor exercise? Don't care, gonna Dab anyway.
Getting shafted by the judges on the floor exercise? Don't care, gonna Dab anyway.
Emily Selby/UGA Sports Communications

It's the end of the regular season, so as we usually expect, the Gym Dogs are continuing to put up higher scores, including getting into that 197 range we really need to see for the fourth time this season. Unfortunately, the other elite teams are racheting up their games, too. So even though we had a pretty good 197.125 tonight, we lost by a  half-point to the 5th-ranked Utah Red Rocks. (Yes, they call their gymnastics team the "Red Rocks," not the Utes. No, I don't know why, either.) Some of that was good old-fashioned home-cookin', but a pretty big part of it, also, was our continuing head-scratching disappointment on bars.

Here are the rotation-by-rotation results:

1) Bars: 49.125
- Sydney Snead: 9.825
- Lauren Johnson: 9.75
- Natalie Vaculik: 9.20
- Rachel Schick: 9.775
- Brandie Jay: 9.85
- Brittany Rogers: 9.925

Once again, we flub it up on bars. This was our strongest event earlier in the year... so what happened?  We haven't seemed to have gotten our groove back on bars ever since that Auburn meet when Rogers and Johnson both had fluky errors that wrecked our rotation. Aside from Natalie's routine, where she flat-out fell on her dismount, most of the rest of our problems stemmed from the fact that our handstands were just not very good. One of the keys on bars is to have a completely vertical handstand, and we've nailed that in the past. But now, it seems like we're always rushing and never able to get a precise lock on it.  Like I said, I just don't get it.  It's there, but we can't get it done.

2) Vault: 49.375
- Ashlyn Broussard: 9.825
- Lauren Johnson: 9.80
- Gigi Marino: 9.875
- Sydney Snead: 9.90
- Brittany Rogers: 9.925

- Brandie Jay: 9.85

Not a bad rotation by the ladies, but not enough stuck landings. If Gigi could have stuck her landing, she could have gotten a huge score, and Brandie, too. But vault was not our weak area tonight. The scores could have been a little bigger, but they were sufficient, especially for an away meet where the judges were pretty clearly practicing some home cookin'.

3) Floor: 49.275
- Sydney Snead: 9.85
- Vivi Babalis: 9.85
- Morgan Reynolds: 9.825
- Gigi Marino: 9.825
- Mary Beth Box: 9.875
- Brandie Jay: 9.875

And as for home cookin', this rotation is all you need to see to prove that point. It's no great secret that in dual meets, the home team almost always gets better scores than the visiting team, because even though gymnastics floor judges should know that the home crowd is always going to cheer louder for their team, it always inexplicably affects the judges, anyway. And tonight, the slights against the Dawgs were particularly egregious.  I'll give myself an "out" here by saying that the camera angles for the floor exercise were abysmal, but based strictly on what I saw, the routines performed by Mary Beth Box and Brandie Jay were at least as good as 5 of the 6 routines performed by Utah gymnasts.  Yet the Red Rocks were lighting up the scoreboard on floor all night, and we didn't even get one damned 9.9 or better.

And Gigi Marino's routine had a minor bobble on one of her passes, but it's nothing short of a damn crime that she was given only a 9.825. Both Box and Jay deserved a 9.90 or even a 9.95, and Marino probably deserved a 9.85 at the very least. And that's not even considering Sydney Snead's amazing routine, and probably the 2nd-best floor routine Vivi Babalis has ever performed.

This was some bush-league crap the judges served up to our ladies tonight.  I don't know if we'd have beaten Utah in a fair judging of our floor exercise vs. theirs, but I do know that our ladies were just as good as their ladies on the floor, if not better, but we got a 49.275 on floor, while they got a 49.575. What a load.

4) Balance Beam: 49.350
- Brandie Jay: 9.80
- Natalie Vaculik: 9.725
- Brittany Rogers: 9.90
- Vivi Babalis: 9.85
- Ashlyn Broussard: 9.85
- Mary Beth Box: 9.95

Compared to the floor scores, the judging on beam was, in my opinion, far more fair, and our final rotation score reflected that fact.  We once again had all the gymnasts stay on the beam (barely, in Vaculik's case, but she stayed up), and we didn't have to count a score lower than 9.80. (And Brandie's score was only that low because she initially missed doing a connection, then backed up and repeated it, nailing the connection the second time. But you get docked for missing it the first time, anyway.) We're continuing to build our beam confidence, and hopefully peaking at a good time on this apparatus.

Final word

Overall, we've been making great strides on the beam, and this meet continued the positive step forward in that direction.  And we did the damn thing on the floor, but just got shafted by the judges, and you can't control that. Vault was consistent, too. For some reason, though, we've completely lost our touch on bars.  And now it's not just one or two meets, but four straight meets where that's happened.

I hate to say it, but it looks like that's the Danna Durante legacy so far. We have the talent to be great on everything, but we're not able to consistently put it together on all four events.  We'll be great on one or two, then completely fall apart on something else. We manage to get the bad event straightened up, and then something else falls apart. This isn't happening in every meet to the Oklahomas and Floridas and Alabamas, and we need to figure out why.  (Don't get me wrong: those teams have a weak meet here and there, but it doesn't seem to happen almost every week on a different apparatus, like it does do us.)

At any rate, this closes out the regular season for the Gym Dogs, and though our score tonight will bump up our RQS score, it won't help us enough in the rankings to meaningfully improve our position. We had been trying to catch Auburn so we could get into the evening session at the SEC tournament, but Auburn put up a 197.175 on Friday night, so we won't catch them. By my amateur-spreadsheet math, it looks like we will at least jump up to about 8th in the national rankings, which could lead to a better regionals pairing if that ranking holds through the conference tournaments. So even though the judges will once again doom us at the SEC Championships (because we're competing in the afternoon session with the "bad teams," so that'll depress our scores), all is still not lost. We're keeping our eyes on the big prize, and the NCAA regionals on April 2 will be the next big step for us.

We do still have the SEC Championships coming up, though, and that's the Gym Dogs' next meet.  The SEC meet will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas on next Saturday, March 19. Danna's Dawgs will be the highest-ranked team competing in the first session, which starts at 2:00 PM eastern time.  Both sessions of the meet will be televised live on the SEC Network.

Whole world's against us, man.  Even the judges. But let's see if we can't just give 'em something to think about going into the NCAA's.

Go Dawgs!