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Gym Dogs put up season high in 197.325-197.700 loss to Bama

Gym Dogs take a major step forward, but still come up short against our biggest rival.

Gigi Marino preparing to take off into orbit on the back of a near-perfect floor routine.
John Paul Van Wert/UGA Sports Communications

Ok, so look. To me, personally, the Georgia-Florida rivalry will always be Georgia-Florida, no matter the sport in which it’s being contested. (I hate Florida.)

When Georgia faces Alabama, though, it’s like the UGA/Tech, UGA/Auburn, and UGA/Florida football rivalries all rolled into one. For years, the fight for the SEC and National titles came down to a fight between Georgia and Alabama. Gym Dogs fans did things for Bama they didn’t do against other schools, things that some people might consider classless. They booed Bama routines and high scores. They cheered when Bama gymnasts fell off the beam or made a major mistake. But mostly, they just hated themselves some Alabama Gym Tide. (And for the record, the Gym Dogs won more of those competitions than they lost, whether at home, on the road, or in a neutral venue.)

Today’s meet against the Gym Tide, however, was surprisingly tame by UGA/Bama meet standards. First, the crowd was kind of light, owing to the fact that it’s the beginning of spring break for Georgia. (Though announced attendance was over 10,000, I’d say the Steg was actually about 60% filled.) Also, there was no particular animosity in the stands for the Alabama team, which I found a little bit disappointing. I mean, if you’re not going to boo your biggest rival, then who can you boo? In addition, it was the first (and probably only) meet I’ve gotten to actually see in person this year, so I actually had a really good experience, though the crowd wasn’t as raucous as they can be at times.

So let’s get to the meet recap. And even though we didn’t win today, there are still a lot of highlights for the Gym Dogs.

Rotation 1: Vault - 49.275

Ashlyn Broussard - 9.80
Morgan Reynolds - 9.825
Rachel Dickson - 9.85
Lauren Johnson - 9.85
Gigi Marino 9.80
Sydney Snead - 9.95

The team score of 49.275 is a season-high for the Gym Dogs. And let’s be honest... with this level of talent in the senior class, this might be pretty close to our ceiling on this event. Gigi again went for the Yurchenko 1.5, which has a 10.0 starting value, but it wasn’t as good as last week’s effort, so her score wasn’t as high as other gymnasts who did better jobs with the easier (and 9.95-start-value) Yurchenko full. I hope Gigi can tighten up that 1.5Y, because if she can, she can bump our vault score even higher. Sydney Snead’s 1.5Y, on the other hand, was pretty dang close to perfect.

As for the rest of the team, as I said previously, they all did the 1Y vault, which only has a 9.95 start value, but almost all of them did it well. We had more stuck (and almost-stuck) landings today, and more height for some gymnasts than I’m used to seeing. Those are two things the judges look for, so it’s great that we delivered on those things.

It’s not the end of the world if a 49.275 is close to our ceiling for this event, if we can consistently score that high. If those 1Y’s can keep being tight, and if Gigi can tighten up her 1.5Y, we might be able to push this a tenth higher or so, which would be great in the postseason.

Bama put up a 49.400 on bars in what, in my opinion, was a prime example of a loosely-judged rotation for them.

Rotation 2: Uneven Bars - 49.425

Morgan Reynolds - 9.875
Hayley Sanders - 9.825
Lauren Johnson - 9.85
Sydney Snead - 9.90
Rachel Dickson - 9.875
Rachel Schick - 9.925

I though the Gym Dogs got judged rather harshly on a couple of bars routines, which sounds a little crazy, probably, since we scored a season high. But it is what it is. I thought Reynolds and Dickson both deserved 9.9’s, but the judges didn’t agree.

Still, this was easily our best bars performance on the season, and still without Natalie Vaculik. There’s hope for us on bars. I mean, our drop score was a 9.825. That’s very good.

Bama put up 49.275 on vault, tying the number the Gym Dogs had carded on that apparatus in the first rotation.

At halftime of the meet, Danna’s Dawgs actually had a lead on Alabama, 49.425-49.400. That’s encouraging, considering that Bama is ranked above us in the polls and had suffered some inconsistency during their midseason slump on beam. But, unfortunately, we just didn’t have the octane to hang with the Gym Tide in the second half.

Rotation 3: Balance Beam - 49.150

Sabrina Vega - 9.85
Hayley Sanders - 9.825
Rachel Dickson - 9.85
Ashlyn Broussard - 9.325
Vivi Babalis - 9.90
Rachel Schick - 9.725

I thought that Sabrina Vega and Rachel Dickson were both robbed of 9.9’s, but the thing that really cost us in this rotation was the return to inconsistency of our seniors. Ashlyn Broussard, after a strong routine last week, once again fell off the beam this week. And Rachel Schick, after being a solid anchor throughout the early part of the year, has now had either a fall or a major balance break in 3 out of her last 4 performances.

On the positive side, however, Vivi Babalis once again got that 9.9 that’s been eluding her over the past 2 weeks. And like I said, Vega and Dickson gave fantastic performances.

As we’ve seen as recently as last week, beam has the potential to be our best event. Unfortunately, it seems like it is just as likely to be our worst, as it was tonight.

Rotation 4: Floor Exercise - 49.475

Morgan Reynolds - 9.875
Vivi Babalis - 9.80
Sabrina Vega - 9.875
Sydney Snead - 9.875
Rachel Dickson - 9.90
Gigi Marino - 9.95

This was a great floor rotation. Our drop score was 9.80, and the lowest score we had to count was a 9.875. It’s hard to get much better than that.

Conclusion: Georgia Gym Dogs - 197.325, Alabama Gym Tide - 197.700

In spite of the fact that Danna’s Dawgs lost this meet, I’m actually encouraged by this outcome. For once, we came up against a top-6 team and didn’t have to rely on them making big mistakes in order to compete with them. We stayed neck-and-neck with Bama the entire way, and both teams had one of their best scores of the year at the end of the night.

The difference on this night was the balance beam. Bama beat us by 0.375 points, and that was the exact difference in our two beam scores. Our beam inconsistencies have cropped back up little by little recently, and we have to find a way to tighten the beam back down without losing our newfound competency in vault and bars.

It won’t be easy to do those things, but we’ve got another top-6 team and major historical rival coming in this weekend, and then the SEC Championships after that, so we need to keep working to bring everything to its peak at exactly the right time.

The Gym Dogs’ next meet will be this Saturday, March 11, against the Utah Red Rocks. This will be the final home meet of the year, and will be Senior Day and Alumni Day. The meet will start at 4:00 PM and will be streamed live on via the SEC Network+ streaming package.

The Red Rocks (yes, they really call their gymnastics team that, and not the Utes) are crescendoing at exactly the right time, just as our ladies appear to be doing, and both teams are climbing the rankings (UGA to 7th, and Utah to a neck-and-neck battle for 4th with UCLA). We need to have another great meet this Saturday, and put up another 197+ score to build our confidence and guarantee our momentum heading into the postseason.

This team is capable of achieving our baseline season goal of making the Super Six, but we’re currently sitting at 7th in the rankings, and none of the teams ahead of us (or, for that matter, behind us) are going to make it easy. We need to rise up to the occasion and make these next couple of weeks our best of the season so far. That’ll bring us where we want to be.

Until Saturday...

Go Dawgs!