After earning its 31st consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships final site Saturday night by winning the Tuscaloosa Regional Championship, the Alabama gymnastics team learned on Sunday that it will compete in the evening session of the NCAA semifinals on Friday, April 19 in Los Angeles, Calif. starting at 6 p.m. PDT.
“We’re excited to be in the evening session where the crowd will be bigger and even though they won’t all be cheering for us, the atmosphere will be electric and we love being a part of that kind of energy,” Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said.
The winner of six NCAA titles, including last two in a row, Alabama is accustomed to large crowds, leading the nation in overall attendance this regular season as well as posting the nation’s largest crowd with 15,075 fans in January, and drawing this year’s largest regional crowd with 7,758 on Saturday.
The No. 3 seeded Crimson Tide will face a familiar field in the semifinals, taking on No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 6 UCLA, No. 10 Utah and No. 11 Arkansas along with No. 7 Michigan, the only team Alabama has not faced already this season.
“We’ve already faced everyone in our session outside of Michigan so we won’t be looking over our shoulder,” Patterson said. “We know what those teams are capable of, but our focus will be on our team and doing our job.”
The afternoon session features No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Stanford and No. 12 Illinois. Overall, Alabama has faced seven of the 11 teams at these championships.
The seeding is determined by national qualifying score (NQS) which takes each of the 12 teams' regional championship score and regional qualifying score (RQS) and adds them together. Alabama was ranked third going into regionals with a 197.415 RQS to which it added a 197.400 regional championship score to come up with a 394.815 NQS.
The Tide’s regional score was the third highest in the nation and more than three-tenths higher than it scored at last year’s regional. The regional meet came just a week after the death of long-time UA director of athletics Mal Moore.
“Last week was a difficult for us as an athletics family with the loss of Coach Moore,” Patterson said. “Going into Saturday’s regional meet our goal was to perform our best and to make him proud.”
The Tide was seeded fourth going into last year’s NCAAs and comes into this year’s championships having posted both a higher regional score and RQS.
The Tide will start its semifinal session on a bye before opening competition on the uneven bars, followed by the balance beam. Following another bye, Alabama will finish off the night on the floor exercise and vault.
“It’s the same rotation that we had at the SEC Championships, minus the byes, when we had our highest score of the season,” Patterson said. “But at the end of the night, you have to hit all four events, so it doesn’t really matter where you start, you still have to do your job if you want to advance.”
Each of the 12 teams competing on Friday will have an all-arounder from a team that didn't advance rotating with them. Washington’s Lauren Rogers will rotate with the Tide.
Alabama won its NCAA-best 28th regional title to advance to Los Angeles. The Tide is one of just two teams in collegiate gymnastics history that has advanced to the NCAA Championships final site 31 or more years in a row.
“I can tell you without a doubt that even after advancing to the national championships 31 years in a row, that feeling of excitement and pride never grows old,” Patterson said.
The top-three teams from each semifinal session will advance to the NCAA Super Six Team Finals which will get underway Saturday, April 20 at 4 p.m. PDT in Pauley Pavilion.