Gym Dogs lose balance on beam, fall to Gators at home

The balance beam took a bite out of Georgia for the second consecutive week.

The Gym Dogs had to count two falls off of the beam as Florida rallied for a 197.3-196.175 dual win at Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday.

“It gets frustrating because we’re such a great group of girls and we’re so talented that we should be able to get career highs on just about every routine we do because we’re so powerful and we’re so confident,” Georgia freshman Brittany Rogers said. “We’ve been doing these skills since we were 10 years old, so it’s not like we learned them yesterday and we’re doing them today. It is frustrating that we can’t just grasp that last 100 percent. We can’t do it yet but we’ll figure it out.”

No. 1 Florida (6-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) out-scored No. 9 Georgia 98.45-97.175 on beam and floor exercise to overtake the Gym Dogs and finish ahead of Georgia (5-5-1, 3-1-1) for the eighth consecutive meeting.

The last time Georgia beat Florida was in the 2009 Super Six when Georgia won its fifth straight national title.

“We lost a little focus and for those girls who fell, it was just a split-second of lost focus,” Georgia junior Lindsey Cheek said. “We worked so hard in practice this week so it wasn’t like we weren’t prepared. We prepared really well. So I think it was just a split-second of lost focus.”

Last week, Georgia had to count a fall on beam and finished with a 195.825-195.825 tie at Kentucky with Rogers and Shayla Worley taking the tumbles.

Even in Georgia’s best meet so far this season, a 197.5-point effort to beat Alabama, Cheek fell off of the beam. But the Gym Dogs were able to drop that score. The last time Georgia had to count two falls off of the beam was in last year’s NCAA preliminaries.

“I just talked to the team and I refuse to accept that we’re not a good beam and floor team,” Georgia coach Danna Durante said. “I’ve seen them. They’re talented. I’ve seen them train. I’ve seen them compete. There are some things that are happening. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s not a physical thing. They can do the skills in their sleep. We need to get better mentally and confidence-wise. We need to figure out how to do that and I think that’s different for each athlete.”

Georgia scored 99.0 points in the first two rotations on vault and uneven parallel bars. But the Gym Dogs collapsed on balance beam as Noel Couch, Kaylan Earls and Worley each fell. The rotation started well for Georgia as Cheek scored a 9.9 to lead off. Sarah Persinger wobbled a couple of times but held on for a 9.725. Then Couch fell and scored 9.25. Rogers seemed to stabilize the situation by scoring 9.9. But the last two in the Gym Dogs’ rotation, Worley and Earls, fell and scored 9.35 and 9.25 respectively to give Georgia a 48.125 total. In the final rotation, Georgia scored 49.050 on floor while Florida avoided any major mistakes on beam to score 49.3.

“I really don’t know what happened,” Rogers said. “We are always so high after vault and bars and then something happens and we can’t grasp the full, 100 percent power that we give on both vault and bars. I think in training we’re really going to work on that and really dig deep into what’s going on because are so capable of doing amazing things on all four events. We work our (tails) off every single day to make ourselves better to match them up with vault and bars. I think we really need to focus in on how we can improve.”

Meanwhile, Florida had a solid run on floor exercise with 49.375 points, led by 9.95 by Briget Sloan and 9.925 by Mackenzie Caquatto to take a 148.0-147.125 lead going into the final rotation. Florida avoided major mistakes on beam to win.

“We were feeling good coming out of the first two rotations,” Georgia freshman Brandie Jay said. “We had great momentum and our scores were showing it. We just started to fad and we need to fix it. It’s definitely frustrating because every day in the gym we don’t show that. We have a great beam team and a great floor team. We need to figure out how to put that out on the floor.”

Georgia started fast as it hit 49.55 on vault and 49.45 on bars. Couch broke the 9.9 barrier for the first time since her return from a thumb injury with a 9.925. Cheek had a 9.9 and Jay added a 9.975 that included a 10 from one of the judges.

“Just to get a 9.975 is a dream come true,” Jay said. “I just seem to go up every week and I hope that continues. It just feels amazing.”

Chelsea Davis highlighted the Gym Dogs’ bars effort with a 9.95. Rogers added a 9.925 and Worley scored a 9.9. to give the Gym Dogs 99.0 points after two rotations.

“I’ve never seen 99 after two events, I didn’t know it was possible,” Davis said. “It definitely is. If we could have finished that out it would have been maybe our highest score of the year. We need to really focus in on those last two events.”

Notes: Couch competed on three events for the first time this season. She was held out of bars. … Florida had four all-around performers, Georgia had none. Florida’s all-arounders were led by Bridget Sloan with 39.6 points, including a 9.95 on bars. … Davis has scored at least a 9.9 on bars for six straight meets.

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