CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Freshman Haylie McCleney had quite the debut to her collegiate career, reaching…
Alabama Gymnastics Has Tough Task
"In gymnastics, there is no offense or defense, so we just have to focus on being the best that we can be," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "Especially coming off a disappointing loss, I want us to be the best that we can be and not be looking around at the other team."
There is a reason to be concerned that the Tide might be checking out the opposition this week. That's because Alabama travels to Gainesville to take on the nation's number one team, the Florida Gators. The meet begins at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. central) time at the O'Connell Center.
Alabama's fifth Southeastern Conference competition of the season and fifth consecutive top 25 opponent is also Bama's second consecutive road meet.
Although the perception is that Georgia has been Alabama's toughest gymnastics competition, in recent years the Gators have taken that role. Alabama and Florida have combined to win the last four SEC Championships and they finished first and second at last year's NCAA Championships, with the Tide winning its sixth national title and the Gators tying their highest NCAA finish.
"Florida is the most talented team in the country and have been for a while now," Patterson said. "I've had them at the top of my preseason ballot the last three or four years. It's going to be a challenge, but we've worked hard this week to take steps forward."
Alabama is led by All-America Kim Jacob, who has opened her junior season by winning four consecutive all-around and floor exercise titles. She has also bettered her career-best score on the floor exercise each of the last three meets, including a 9.95 last week in Athens.
Florida is led by sophomore Kytra Hunter who is the defending NCAA all-around champion and ranked number one in the all-around. Florida has four gymnasts ranked in this week's top-15 in the all-around.
Both Alabama and Florida are ranked in the top 10 nationally on all four apparatus.
While Alabama won every dual meet between 1990 and 2002, the regular-season series has been much more balanced over the last decade, with the home team winning each year for a 5-5 split.
After taking on Florida this Friday, the Tide returns home to face in-state rival Auburn on Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now through the Alabama Ticket Office (205 348-2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at RollTide.com.