Alabama gymnastics opens season Friday: Here's what you need to know

Mikey DiLullo
The Tuscaloosa News
Lexi Graber competes on the vault. Alabama defeated Georgia in gymnastics 197.450 to 196.050 Saturday, March 7, 2020. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Alabama gymnastics starts its season Friday night at 8 p.m. against Kentucky at Coleman Coliseum on ESPNU. Here are three things to know before the first meet:

There will be an SEC-only schedule

There will be eight regular-season meets before the SEC Championship in New Orleans on March 20.

Sixth-ranked Alabama will host No. 12 Kentucky, No. 14 Auburn, No. 3 LSU and No. 1 Florida while traveling to No. 16 Missouri, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 10 Georgia, and No. 15 Arkansas. All six of the Crimson Tide's opponents are ranked in the preseason top 25 poll, and coach Dana Duckworth says she believes the SEC is the best gymnastics conference in the nation.

There are high hopes despite the pandemic

"I think that there's several things this team has told us during this offseason." said Duckworth. "It's different this year. I'm glad they like each other because they spend a lot of time together."

Duckworth added that there's more depth this season than in some other years.

"It's not just the top five or six can go 9.9" she said.

More:Alabama gymnastics starts season ranked No. 6

The seniors are grateful for this season

"This senior class, this team, they're going to go down in history as a team that went through a global pandemic doing what they love" said Duckworth.

"It's unreal." said Alonza Klopfer on competing in her senior season, a season that was not guaranteed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I'm so grateful to be in this position, to be able to lead this team this year."

Fellow senior Lexi Graber agreed.

"We truly are so grateful to have the opportunity to do the sport that we love," she said. "We are so grateful to compete. That's just what we love to do."