For the third year in a row, Alabama gymnastics will open its season on the road against a non-conference opponent. It is set to compete at Michigan on Friday, officially kicking off its 2018 schedule.
Last season, Alabama began at Oklahoma. Prior to that was UCLA.
“I never really thought about that,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “You’re just excited to open. You’re excited to just get started no matter who you’re competing against.”
No. 4 Alabama at No. 7 Michigan
When: Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT
Where: Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Duckworth is from Michigan, too.
Alabama hasn’t made the trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., since 2011. The last regular-season meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Wolverines was in a 2014 quad meet.
Still, this will actually be the third time these two teams have competed against each other in Alabama’s last four meets. Both were at the same regional last year – Michigan took first, Alabama second – and together advanced to the NCAA Championships. Unlike the Crimson Tide, the Wolverines did not make it to the final night for Super Six.
Michigan finished 10th at NCAAs but claimed its fourth-straight Big Ten Championships title. Alabama was sixth nationally and placed third at the SEC Championships.
“I’ll tell you this, there’s a lot of gymnastics in Michigan,” Duckworth said. “The neat part about the state of Michigan is there are five. You have Michigan gymnastics, Michigan State gymnastics, Eastern Michigan gymnastics, Central Michigan and Western Michigan.
“Hope they have a lot of judges.”
This will be Alabama’s first time competing this year. Michigan held an exhibition meet against Eastern Michigan last weekend, winning with a 196.125.
In the 2018 preseason coaches’ poll, Alabama was ranked No. 4 while Michigan sat at No. 7.
UA graduated six gymnasts after last season but gained four. UM lost two and added three.
New Year, new team?
“I definitely think the work ethic this year is incredible, and I’m excited to see how we put that out there in competition,” Alabama senior Mackenzie Brannan said. “We also have a lot of consistency in practice, so I’m looking forward to seeing that out in competition as well.”
Won’t have to wait much longer.
The meet starts at 4:30 p.m. and airs on ESPNU. The Crimson Tide will begin on the uneven bars and close out on the balance beam. There will be exhibition, so Duckworth plans to take full advantage of that and test Alabama’s depth..
“I would say clean, consistent and confidence is what I want to see at Michigan,” Duckworth said. “I want to get our feet wet, and I want to launch this team into the season.”