Georgia Gymnastics: Gym Dawgs fall at home to Bama

The Georgia gymnastics team came up short at home against Alabama, in what used to be one of the premier gymnastics matchups in the country.

My how the mighty have fallen. The Gym Dawgs lost another meet Friday night, this time to fellow SEC powerhouse, Alabama, 197.675 – 196.825.

This wasn’t the headline matchup that it was for 30+ years of NCAA gymnastics. Suzanne vs. Sarah was so intense, ESPN did an SEC Storied on the rivalry between the teams and coaches. Between them, they had 16 NCAA team titles — 10 for UGA, 6 for Alabama.

Those numbers are even more astounding given that the NCAA championship for gymnastics has only been around since 1982, which means that 16 of 33 championships belong to two teams. These same two teams compete against each other at least twice a year – once in a dual meet, and once at the conference championships.

Suzanne Yoculan has been retired since the end of the 2009 season, and Danna Durante is in her third year as head coach for Georgia now. This is Dana Duckerson’s first year at Alabama after Sarah Patterson’s retirement last year. So now we have Danna vs. Dana. It is perfectly scripted for this rivalry to return to the cream of the crop of NCAA gymnastics again.

I got so used to the famous wardrobe competitions between Suzanne and Sarah, the houndstooth pants one of their current assistants wore tonight almost didn’t faze me.

Oh yes he did. Don’t worry – the Norwegian Curling Team uniform was just for warmups. He wore real clothes for the actual meet.

The Gym Dawgs even got to break out new black leotards with the “secondary UGA logo” on the backs as the meet was marketed as Blackout Bama. It wasn’t nearly as bad of a bloodbath as the last Blackout against Bama.

The first rotation, vault, was highlighted by 9.975 from Ashlyn Broussard, as well as a 9.95 from Brittany Rogers, both career highs. The team started with a 49.550 on vault, a season high for the Dawgs. That was the high point for the evening against Bama’s 49.375 on the uneven bars.

Unfortunately, Bama also did well on the vault, with a 9.95 from Kayla Williams, and a team score of 49.425. The Gym Dawgs lucked out on bars (49.3) as a fall from veteran Brandie Jay (9.125) could be dropped. Senior Sarah Persinger had a career-high with a 9.90, also the Dawgs’ high score on bars.

Georgia had to go into the third rotation with a nice lead given that they have had to count several falls on beam this year, and Alabama came into the meet ranked #2 in the country on floor. The Tide’s choreography, music and tumbling are fantastic.

And yes, that is part of the judging — your choreography and music should match. In other words, booty dancing to Beethoven wouldn’t score a 10.0. Carley Sims’ music included some “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe, techno and synthesized music, with high energy choreography to match. It helps to nail the fundamentals, too.

Indeed, we did have a fall on beam. Kiera Brown’s 9.125 was dropped, but it would be a relief to have to drop a 9.75 for a change. Beam has definitely been the Achilles heel for this team, this year, and going back several years for that matter. Mary Beth Box closed out for the team high 9.95. She is a fan favorite because she does the moonwalk on the beam, which was started by Nikki Childs her freshman year in 2005, TEN years ago!

It was a relief to only be down by .225 considering Alabama turned in two 9.95 and two 9.90 scores on floor. Alabama’s 49.525 on floor was their season high. They were so good, they had to drop a 9.825.

The Dawgs on the other hand, had two falls on the floor, which is highly unusual for this team historically. Tumbling has always been the strong-suit of Georgia gymnastics, and we aren’t used to seeing 9.275 (Ashlyn Broussard) and 9.20 (Gigi Marino). Persinger had the team’s high score again, with a 9.90, but the Dawgs had to count Broussard’s fall in the final score, which was the nail in the coffin for the evening.

Bama’s beam routines sealed the deal

The good news is that Georgia posted enough high scores throughout the meet to tally a 196.825 score, which is their second highest team score this year. Gymnastics may be the only sport where winning isn’t as important as the team’s overall score. For example, in the loss at LSU, Georgia had a 196.850, and that is better that than the 195.800 score in a win vs Missouri.

There is definitely room for improvement with this team, but there isn’t much time left – only three regular season meets left (at Auburn, and Arkansas and Utah at home) before the SEC Championships March 21 in Duluth, and the NCAA regionals on April 4. It’s time to stick some landings, folks.