Gym Dogs overcome struggles on beam to put away Auburn

Georgia had a shakier night on balance beam than normal.

But Sarah Persinger and Chelsea Davis each tied career highs to help the Gym Dogs out-point Auburn 196.060-195.7 on Friday at Stegeman Coliseum.

Davis recorded the highest score by a Gym Dog of the season in any event with a 9.95 on uneven parallel bars. Persinger also hit a 9.9 on floor exercise.

“It feels awesome, that’s what this team is about,” Persinger said. “We’re fighters. We’re competitors and we just have that fire. If there’s a little mistake, we bounce right back. That’s what I’m so proud of with this team. Every time we have a mistake we get right back up.”

Davis had the performance of the night when she hit a 9.95 on uneven parallel bars. Davis’ 9.95 tied a career high and was the top score by any Gym Dog on any event this season.

“It was awesome,” Davis said. “The last two weeks I’ve been kind of objecting instead of competing. These are bar routines that I do every day in the gym and I’ve been kind of waiting for it to come out. I kind of got chills when I landed it. I didn’t know it was going to be a 9.95 but that was a good bonus.”

Georgia (2-1, 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference) closed the meet with 49 points on floor exercise, highlighted by Persinger’s 9.9 which tied a career high. Christa Tanella and freshman Brandie Jay each scored 9.875 and Kaylan Earls added a 9.85.

“That just felt amazing,” Persinger said. “There’s just no other feeling like that when you finish a routine and you know that you did your best and put it all out there. When your team is behind you and everybody’s cheering, that’s such a wonderful feeling.”

Cat Hires went out of bounds and scored 9.5 on floor exercise. Georgia had to count Hires’ score when Shayla Worley busted the landing on her final tumbling pass and scored 9.375.

“The thing that is so different from the last time we were home, is we had the faith and the hunger and the drive to finish things,” Georgia coach Danna Durante said. “I’m a little bummed about Shayla’s last pass on floor (9.375 score). But we’re going to work on with her is to stay on top of each and every skill. She’s done a great job on bars and a great job on beam and she was great on floor for two passes but on that third she got a little bit ahead of herself.”

Auburn (0-5, 0-2) was led by 9.9 by Bri Guy on floor exercise.

The last time Georgia was at home, it collapsed on the final event and lost a dual to Oklahoma 196.45-195.425 on Jan. 5. This time Georgia limited its mistakes and took advantage of Auburn’s miscues to win its first meet of the season at Stegeman Coliseum.

“It shows that we have a lot of promise to be able to come back from mistakes like that,” Shayla Worley said. “We do kind of have an inexperienced lineup. I think it’s better to have this adversity early in the season to better prepare us for later.”

Georgia had been solid on beam in the first two meets of the season. But on Friday Lindsey Cheek fell. Brittany Rogers had a major deduction for a form break and Georgia had to count her 9.275 to total 48.5 on the event. However Worley scored a 9.85 while Persinger added a 9.825 and Kaylan Earls added a 9.8 to help offset the mistakes.

“Lindsey fell and with Brittany — I know she’s been to the Olympic, but if you’re talking about working beam in front of eight people, it’s a whole different ball game,” Georgia coach Danna Durante said. “She does this cool move that gets everybody excited. I think it rattled her a little bit so she got angry. She missed the connection so we’re going to need a backup plan. We’ve talked about a backup before and today proved that we’ve got to have a backup.”

Georgia scored 49.15 on vault to lead off the meet, led by a 9.9 by Cheek. Rogers also had a 9.8, Persinger added a 9.825 and Brandie Jay anchored with a 9.8.

Georgia scored a season-high 49.4 on bars, led by Davis’ 9.95. Christa Tanella and Rogers each had 9.875. Cheek and Worley each had 9.85 for the Gym Dogs.

Georgia will have a quick turnaround and will face Stanford in a Martin Luther King Day special at 2 p.m. on Monday.

“To win in front of our home crowd is great,” Worley said. “We love that energy. We love that support from the home crowd. Our goal is to win every meet whether it’s on the road or at home. But it definitely feels better to win at home.”

Notes: Noel Couch missed her third straight meet with an injured thumb. … Brandie Jay set a career high with a 9.875 on floor. … Brittany Rogers set a career high with a 9.875 on bars.