No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 1 Oklahoma
When: 7:45 p.m. Friday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 0-1, Oklahoma 4-0

The University of Alabama gymnastics team, looking to bounce back from a season-opening dual meet loss to Auburn, will have the most difficult challenge of the season as it looks to turn things around against No. 1 Oklahoma on Friday night.

Despite the challenge, Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth expects a high-energy performance from her young team.

“We feel honored to have the No. 1 team in the country coming to Coleman Coliseum,” Duckworth said. “With that and the fact that it is our first home meet, it’s not only going to be an incredible competition but an electric environment because there is nothing better than competing in Coleman.”

For two weeks in a row, Oklahoma has posted the top score in the nation. The Sooners were one of just two teams (Florida) to break the 197 threshold as they posted a 197.675 on the road at Arizona State in their last meet.

Oklahoma returns seven All-Americans from their 2019 NCAA Championship team including all-around star Maggie Nichols, who is one of the nation’s top two gymnasts along with UCLA sensation Kyla Ross. Nichols is the two-time defending NCAA All-Around champion. OU junior Anastasia Webb is also ranked among the Top 10 all-arounders in the NCAA.

For Alabama, three freshmen — Luisa Blanco, Ella Burgess, and Makarri Doggette — all made their UA debuts in the Crimson Tide’s competitive lineup at Auburn, with all three posting at least one score of 9.825 or better

The Crimson Tide had three scores of 9.9: senior Maddie Desch and junior Lexi Graber on the floor exercise, and Blanco on the balance beam. Doggette anchored both the Tide’s floor and uneven bar lineups in her Alabama debut, posting the Tide’s top score on the uneven bars with a 9.875.

“I’m excited to see how the freshmen respond (on Friday night),” Duckworth said. “Sometimes, freshmen will get it right away and use it for fuel. Sometimes you see the ‘deer in the headlights’ look because they’ve never been in front of that many people in that kind of meet.

“Our hope is that our (freshmen) are all competitors and they are going to eat it up.”

“Oklahoma is obviously a very good team but we are hungry,” Doggette said. “We’re fighting for the same spot.”