No. 5 LSU at No. 9 Alabama
When: Friday at 8 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 6-1, 1-0 SEC; LSU 1-2, 0-2 SEC
TV: SEC Network
All eight Southeastern Conference gymnastics teams are ranked nationally in the top 25. Half of them are in the top 10, including the Crimson Tide.
No. 9 Alabama just opened its conference schedule last week with a win against Georgia. It was close. The Crimson Tide’s season-high 196.9 was just 0.025 higher than the Bulldogs’ score.
“As a team, you have to learn how to win,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “You have to learn how to want it and snag it.
“But this is going to sound weird: You’re not going after the win, you’re going out there to perform at your very best because if you do that, the winning will take care of itself.”
Rankings are based on score averages anyway.
The Crimson Tide has actually made leaps and bounds considering it started the season with a 194.75, its lowest score since 2006. The most recent mark is 2.15 points better.
“We did need it because I think we were down after the first two (meets); for sure the first one,” Alabama freshman Emily Gaskins said. “Even though we won, the scores just took us by surprise, and we were hungry to get out there and give the judges nothing. Like you’re not going to take anything off this routine, watch me.”
The Crimson Tide posted season highs on every event last week. It’s now fifth on vault (49.175), eighth on the floor exercise (49.15), 10th on the uneven bars (49.092) and 37th on the balance beam (48.525).
“Ultimately, we’re all striving to be perfect and you want be perfect at the end of the day, but you also can’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t get the 10.0,” UA senior Ariana Guerra said. “You can only be as good as you can be in that moment in time.”
That’s the mentality Alabama brought to Georgia and will carry into this Friday’s home meet against No. 5 LSU, the second highest-ranked SEC team. The Tigers have a 196.825 average with a 197.425 season high. They are third on bars (49.408), fifth on both beam (49.125) and floor (49.217), and then eighth on vault (49.075).
Overall, LSU is 1-2 and both of its losses were to fellow SEC teams: Auburn and Florida. Alabama is 6-1 — two of its three meets were quad meets — and won its only conference meet so far.
“It’s the SEC by golly,” Duckworth said. “Actually, right now, if you’re competing against anybody in the top 20, you better be ready because everybody’s getting good.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.