After three straight meets in the friendly confines of Stegeman Coliseum, the No. 10-ranked Georgia gymnastics team will head back out on the road to face No. 3 Alabama on Friday.
The meet will begin at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the SEC Network. Melissa Lee, 9-time UGA national champion Courtney Kupets Carter and Kayce Smith will be on the call.
The Gymdogs had four of their first five meets away from Athens, so going on the road is nothing new to them.
“The good thing about going to Alabama is the crowd is very similar (to Georgia),” sophomore Gigi Marino said. “Obviously they’re rooting for their team, but it’s an environment that we’re used to. We get the same thing here. In that sense, it’s going to feel a lot like a home meet. I think that all of this experience at home is really going to help us going into a similar environment.”
“Alabama has educated and energetic fans, just like we have at Georgia,” Gymdogs head coach Danna Durante said. “It’s going to be a charged environment on Friday and we’re excited about being part of it.”
Georgia and Alabama are members of the exclusive 6-school club as teams that can boast national championships. They have a combined 16 NCAA titles — 10 for Georgia — not to mention 26 SEC championships. This marks the 139th all-time meeting between Georgia and Alabama. The Gymdogs hold an 80-56-2 advantage in the series.
“SEC gymnastics and really the entire landscape of college gymnastics is what it is because of Georgia and Alabama,” Durante said. “What Suzanne (Yoculan of Georgia) and Sarah (Patterson of Alabama) did for our sport is just amazing.”
“We watched the SEC Network documentary (“Sarah and Suzanne”) and it was just crazy to see how the two teams pushed each other,” Marino said. “Honestly, I don’t think either team would be as amazing as they are today if the other team wasn’t pushing. It was kind of this back and forth between the two teams, and they always were striving to be better than the other. I think it really pushed the level of gymnastics at both schools to where it is today.”
The Gymdogs enter Friday’s meet nationally rated fourth on bars, fifth on vault, and seventh on floor exercise. It’s the No. 32 ranking on balance beam, however, that draws the most attention.
“That ranking is indicative of what we’ve been scoring, but it’s not indicative of what we’re capable of,” Durante said. “It comes down to not trying to be more than you are. You just have to stay on top of what you do. It’s easy to try to do more than you can, but you don’t have to. We’re not hung up on the beam average. We’ll keep working and keep going to the gym. We know what we’re capable of and our belief has not wavered.”
Durante points to the Gymdogs’ meet with No. 1 Oklahoma last Saturday in Athens. Georgia had to count a fall on beam and dropped a 197.375-196.750 decision. If not for the fall, the score would have been 147.875-147.850 heading into the final rotation with the meet up for grabs.
“We talked about it in our meetings and our team gets it,” Durante said. “We all know that we were right there and that we stayed with the best team we’ve seen so far this season. We’re very even with the top teams. We’re all doing high-level, well-executed gymnastics.”
Individually, UGA has several players that rank among the nation’s best. Senior Brittany Rogers is rated fourth on bars, 16 in the all-around and 19th on vault. Senior Brandie Jay stands fourth on vault and 19th on bars, while senior Mary Beth Box is 11th on floor and freshman Sydney Snead is 19th on vault.