Georgia has suffered through a long, cold drought against arch-rival Alabama.
But after the Gym Dogs beat Alabama for the first time in three years, they wanted to point more at their season-high score than dumping the two-time defending national champions 197.5-196.95 on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum.
“It’s not much that we beat Alabama, it’s that we beat ourselves and put a meet together,” Georgia senior Christa Tanella said. “We kept saying, ‘We’re enough. We’re capable of putting a great meet together and we did it.’ We do it every day. We just need to build that confidence on that. It’s not that we beat Alabama. Alabama wasn’t even in our mental blinders. It was to put a meet together. When we do that, that’s what the result is.”
No. 8 Georgia (5-4, 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference) posted its highest score since posting a 197.7 against UCLA on March 2, 2012. It also ended a seven-meet losing skid to the Crimson Tide that stretched back three complete seasons. It was the first time Georgia finished in front of Alabama (3-1, 3-1) in a meet since finishing first in the 2009 NCAA championships.
“We come to compete against every team in the country,” Georgia senior Shayla Worley said. “But we’ve had such a great rivalry with them over the years, it does feel good to finally beat them. I don’t think hardly anyone on the team recognizes the drought. It’s not in the forefront of our minds. But there were times when we had to remind ourselves to take it down a notch and not get too hyped up. We want to do this and we want to do awesome. But we don’t need to be anything more than we already are.”
Georgia began the night by setting a season high in its strongest event with 49.475 points on vault. Brittany Rogers scored a 9.9, Lindsey Cheek scored a 9.925 and freshman Brandie Jay anchored with a 9.95.
“It was a great to be able to come out with a bang,” Jay said. “It really helped our confidence, and we just knew this was how we were going to have to go at it the whole meet. This is how we’ve been practicing so we need to do it the same way when we compete.”
Georgia led throughout but the meet turned decisively in Georgia’s favor on balance beam. After Lindsey Cheek fell to lead off, Georgia stabalized by reeling off a 9.85 from Sarah Persinger, a 9.875 from Noel Couch, Rogers and Worley. Kaylan Earls put an exclamation point on the rotation by anchoring with a career-high 9.95.
“It was really exciting,” Earls said. “When I got ready for that dismount, I said to myself, ‘OK, I’m going to stick this dismount.’ When I stuck it, it was the most amazing feeling.”
Georgia scored a season-high 49.425 on beam and led 148.175-147.8 going into the final rotation.
“That was huge, that was so huge,” first-year coach Danna Durante said. “After Cheek made that mistake — it happens — but Sarah (Persinger) came back and knocked out a great beam set and kept us going. Then for Kaylan lock that 9.95 and stick that double-back was big. Kaylan has been a little sore and a little achy, so for her to just nail that was just a huge lift to everybody.”
Georgia closed out the meet on floor and Jay scored a 9.9 as the Gym Dogs tallied 49.325 points.
Georgia turned in its most consistent meet of the season and didn’t count a score lower than a 9.8. Georgia’s freshmen continued to produce at a high level as Jay scored 9.95 on vault and 9.9 on floor and Rogers scored a 9.9 on both bars and vault. Cheek scored a 9.925 on vault, Chelsea Davis hit 9.925 on bars, and Noel Couch returned to the lineup after missing the first five meets to compete on beam and floor.
“I think this shows our progress and our building over the course of the season,” Worley said. “Our theme has been to lay one step at a time and keep building and keep progressing all the way to nationals. The thing that stands out is we weren’t anything spectacular. We still left some tenths out there that we could have gotten. Yeah, Kaylan did amazing on beam and Chelsea did amazing on bars. But overall, we were all just steady. That’s very promising because if we just do what we do, that’s what happens.”
Notes: Longtime Georgia assistant coach Doug McAvinn received a standing ovation when he was honored between rotations. … Courtney Kupets got the biggest hand when the alumni were introduced before the start. … Georgia outscored Alabama on three of four rotations — vault, bars and beam. … Rogers set a career high with 9.875 on beam and Jay set a career-high on floor exercise with a 9.9.
Georgia — 197.500
Alabama — 196.950
Georgia Individual Scores
Vault (49.475): Chelsea Davis — 9.850; Sarah Persinger — 9.825; Lindsey Cheek — 9.925; Brittany Rogers — 9.900; Cat Hires — 9.850; Brandie Jay — 9.950
Bars (49.275): Lindsey Cheek — 9.800; Christa Tanella — 9.825; Brandie Jay — 9.825; Brittany Rogers — 9.900; Shayla Worley — 9.800; Chelsea Davis — 9.925
Beam (49.425): Lindsey Cheek — 9.250; Sarah Persinger — 9.850; Noel Couch — 9.875; Brittany Rogers — 9.875; Shayla Worley — 9.875; Kaylan Earls — 9.950
Floor (49.325): Kaylan Earls — 9.875; Christa Tanella — 9.875; Sarah Persinger — 9.800; Brandie Jay — 9.900; Shayla Worley — 9.600; Noel Couch — 9.875