TOUGH DEBUT: Gym Dogs open season with loss in Danna Durante’s first meet as head coach

Georgia turned in one solid performance after another for three rounds.

But a mistake-filled floor exercise rotation cost the Gym Dogs the match as Oklahoma came from behind to win 196.45-195.425 in Georgia’s first meet with new head coach Danna Durante.

“It was disappointing to end the way we did,” Georgia senior Shayla Worley said. “But on the other hand, we had three really strong rotations and this was the first meet of the season. So if we just have one weak event right now, we can focus in on that and we can fix that. It feels great, especially to get those first-meet jitters out and have a whole new appreciation to get out there and compete again.”

No. 11-ranked Georgia (0-1) out-pointed No. 4-ranked Oklahoma (1-0) in each of the first three rounds and led 147.425-147.250 going into the final rotation with Georgia on floor and Oklahoma on balance beam.

Georgia committed four major mistakes on floor and had to count a 9.375 by sophomore Sarah Persinger and a 9.175 by freshman Brandie Jay. Georgia dropped 9.075 by Cat Hires. Worley scored a 9.775, but went out of bounds after a tumbling pass. A 9.85 by Kaylan Earls and a 9.825 by Christa Tanella weren’t enough to cancel the mistakes.

“We lost some concentration,” Durante said. “A little bit of that is we’re lacking in some depth in that event. It’s also an event that’s a little behind and it’s been a little behind. It’s disappointing no doubt. I think we started off pretty strong with Kaylan and Christa. The ones who were out there obviously have the ability to do much better than they did. But we need to work on it.”

Georgia competed without senior Noel Couch, who missed Saturday’s season opener with a strained thumb. It was the first meet she has missed in her Georgia career and broke a school-record 28-meet streak in which she competed in all-around.

“Noel has just been a tremendous asset for this team,” Worley said. “She’s a competitor and she’s somebody you want out there. It’s a little bit of a bummer that she’s going to be out for these first couple of meets. It’s great that we’ve got people and we’ve got depth to rally around and fill that spot.”

The stumbling finish did not put a damper on the solid performances to start. Georgia scored 49.3 in its first rotation on vault led by a 9.925 by Hires. Georgia scored 49.15 on uneven parallel bars and all six scores were bunched between 9.775 and a team-high 9.875 by Chelsea Davis.

“It might have been nerves but it was the first meet of the year and it’s a journey,” Georgia junior Lindsey Cheek said. “It’s a process so we’re not going to focus on that anymore. We’re going to put it behind us and focus on the next meet. If we dwell on what happened today, we’re not going to be successful later in the season. I don’t think it was disappointing because there were a lot of great things. Just because one event doesn’t go the way you want it doesn’t mean the whole meet was a disappointment. Yeah, we struggled here and there but it was a success overall being out there in front of 10,000 fans again.”

Earls anchored balance beam for the first time in her career and scored 9.8. Worley scored a 9.9 on beam and Cheek added a 9.8. Earls also tied her career high with a 9.85 on floor.

“You have that anxiety built up all fall and you’re ready to get out there and compete,” Earls said. “So it felt good to finally get out there. I think we got a little bit ahead of ourselves in that last rotation but it’s nothing that we can’t fix. It gives us something that we know we need to work on and build from there.”

Notes: Hires scored career highs on vault (9.925) and bars (9.825). She competed in all-around for the first time and finished with 37.8 points. … Freshman Brittany Rogers competed in three events, scoring 9.85 on vault, 9.8 on bars and 9.75 on beam. … Senior Kati Breazeal performed in an exhibition on beam.

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RT @chris_starrs: UGA’s Christian Payne saw his first playing time last week against Arkansas. http://t.co/eFBPVIEFWV

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