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Gym Dogs Defeat UK, 196.500 - 196.150

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Gym Dogs close out 4-meet homestand with 5th straight win

Natalie Vaculik on bars
Natalie Vaculik returned for the first time this season, carding a 9.90 on bars in the process
John Paul Van Wert/UGA Sports Communications

Welcome back, Dawg fans!

Unfortunately, my time has been short today and this evening, so this recap will probably be somewhat shorter than the previous ones I’ve written so far. Mostly, we’ll stick to just the facts.

First, Sydney Snead was still out for this meet, resting and rehabbing her back injury. Syd had suffered a severe injury to her back as a senior in high school, and didn’t compete at all for over a year while she was initially rehabbing that injury. Unfortunately, it looks to be a nagging thing that she’ll have to keep working around for a long time, as Coach Danna Durante alluded to in the following statement, issued before the meet:

With Sydney, her back is a situation we’ll have to monitor for the rest of her career. Our primary responsibility is to her long-term health. This has been a great week for Syd and we look forward to her returning to competition in the next few weeks.

If you ask me, that wording is somewhat ominous, and the fact that Coach Durante couldn’t even hint at a return date tells me that we’ll be without her services for a little while more... possibly even the rest of the season. Let’s hope that’s not the case, but as Coach Durante said, Syd’s long-term health is the most important concern here. (And I have no doubt that the UGA Sports Medicine staff, who are the best in the nation in my opinion, will make sure she’s taken care of the right way.)

In addition, Rachel Schick, our senior stalwart on bars and beam, had been very ill over the past 2 days. Since Schick was still recovering her strength, she only competed on bars in this meet.

Rotation 1: Vault - 49.200

Ashlyn Broussard - 9.825
Morgan Reynolds - 9.875
Beth Roberts - 9.775
Lauren Johnson - 9.825
Rachel Dickson - 9.85
Gigi Marino - 9.825

A 49.200 is a pretty solid, serviceable number, and it seems to be the baseline that we’re consistently reaching. For us to get to the heights we want to see, however, we need to be reaching more for a 49.300+ on every rotation. That’s easily within reach here... we just need to tighten up across the board.

Rotation 2: Uneven Bars - 49.275

Hayley Sanders - 9.80
Morgan Reynolds - 9.825
Lauren Johnson - 9.75
Natalie Vaculik - 9.90
Rachel Dickson - 9.90
Rachel Schick - 9.85

NATALIE VACULIK IS BACK, Y’ALL. The junior, who had been out all season to this point as she recovered from a preseason illness, finally was able to return to the lineup tonight, and she announced her presence with flair. Tossing up a 9.90 on your first routine back after a long absence? That’s the kind of leadership we want to see, folks. It’s great to have Nat back, and let’s hope she can keep up the great work for the rest of the season!

Rachel Dickson also carded a great routine, and it was nice to see Hayley Sanders finally get a little bit of love from the judges with her hard-earned 9.80.

Rotation 3: Balance Beam - 48.650

Sabrina Vega - 9.825
Hayley Sanders - 9.65
Morgan Reynolds - 9.825
Ashlyn Broussard - 9.70
Vivi Babalis - 9.65
Rachel Dickson - 9.175

Well, the old bugaboo for the Gym Dogs returned tonight. We didn’t have any complete disasters, and we didn’t have to count the 1 fall we saw (from Rachel Dickson), but the only really good routines we saw were from Sabrina Vega and Morgan Reynolds. Everybody else just didn’t have it tonight. And when pretty much everybody is “just a little bit off,” then the entire team can end up putting up a dismal rotation score like this one. This rotation is the reason we didn’t score in the 197’s tonight. Gotta be more consistent.

Rotation 4: Floor Exercise - 49.375

Morgan Reynolds - 9.875
Beth Roberts - 9.80
Vivi Babalis - 9.85
Sabrina Vega - 9.90
Rachel Dickson - 9.875
Gigi Marino - 9.875

To be completely honest, this floor rotation wasn’t really all that different from the floor rotation we performed last week. The difference is that last week we pretty clearly got a little bit of home cookin’ on some of the scores, and this week the judging was a little bit harsher. As a result, the scores were about a half-tenth or so lower across the board, which led to us “only” carding a very respectable 49.375 instead of the 49.500 we saw last week. Very consistent performance, though, and as long as we keep it up, we should be in good shape here.

Conclusion: Georgia Gym Dogs 196.500, Kentucky Gym Cats 196.150

The bottom line is tonight is that Danna’s Dawgs dispatched a team they should have beaten, even on a night where they didn’t have their best stuff on the beam. Kentucky is having a pretty good (for them) season, and they put up a very decent score (again, for them). The Gym Dogs did their thing, though, and rightfully came out on top.

Starting next week, though, we hit the real gauntlet portion of our schedule. We’ve now finished facing the teams that we ought to be beating. From here on out, every opponent we’ll be facing will have been putting scores week-to-week that have been better than ours, so to keep our 5-match win streak going (or, indeed, to even finish the season better than .500 in the W-L column), we’re going to have to raise our game to a new level.

Next week is what I’ve newly-christened the WLIGP: World’s Largest Indoor Gymnastics Party. Yes, we’ll be facing the 3rd-ranked Florida Gators. (I hate Florida.) The meet will be held in Gainesville, FL, and will start at 7:00 PM. It will be televised live on the SEC Network.

If, for some unholy reason, you find yourself in Gainesville next week, buy a ticket and show the denizens of Gatorsville what the best gymnastics fans in the country sound like. Otherwise, watch the WLIGP with me on the SEC Network, and let’s hope we can lift our game to the point where we can take down one of our two most hated rivals. Until then...

Go Dawgs! Beat Florida!