No. 8 Gators fall to No. 4 Bama


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Rhonda Faehn wanted to see how the University of Florida gymnastics team would perform under pressure. She got a good idea Friday night.
Competing in front of the third-largest crowd in the history of collegiate gymnastics, the eighth-ranked Gators stumbled in their first and last rotations and lost to fourth-ranked Alabama, 195.775 to 194.625.
With a sellout crowd of 15,162 bathing Coleman Coliseum in pink in support of the meet's breast cancer awareness theme Faehn saw her team show its nerves from the start.
"A little shaky," Faehn said. "It was really, really rough. We started out with such a deep hole. We had mistakes that were uncharacteristic."
The Gators couldn't get a grip on the uneven bars in the first rotation, with Breanne King and Sherie Owens taking falls and Florida scoring 48.2.
Alabama scored 49.025 on the vault behind a 9.9 from senior Ashley Miles, a two-time national champion on the event.
Florida did better in the second rotation, with Katie Rue scoring 9.85 on the vault to lead the Gators to a score of 48.975, but Alabama increased its lead to nearly a full point by the midway point of the competition with a team score of 49.125 on the bars, led by a 9.9 from Olympic silver medalist and defending NCAA bars champion Terin Humphrey.
At that point, things looked pretty bleak for Florida.
"It's always tough to get behind like that early in a meet," junior Samantha Lutz said. "I think we put it back together. We really don't focus on the scores too much.
"Alabama is a great team and this is a great competitive environment. This will help us get better."
The Gators saw an opening in the third rotation. Alabama struggled on the balance beam, with Miles falling and fellow senior Mari Bayer wobbling through her routine on the way to a score of 9.6. The Tide had to count Bayer's score and freshman Cassie Martin's 9.4 while Florida was rocking its way to a score of 49.075 on the floor exercise.
Sophomore Tiffany Murry anchored the Gators' turn on the floor with a 9.9, and Corey Hartung, Savannah Evans, Katie Rue and Tracey Rai all scored 9.8 or better. Going into the meet's final rotation, Florida trailed by just 2/10ths of a point, but Florida faltered on the balance beam as Alabama pulled away.
The Gators counted a fall and no Florida gymnast scored better than Lutz' 9.85, while Alabama's low score on the floor exercise was a 9.8 and Miles brought the crowd to its feet with a 9.95 to cap the meet.
Both Rai and Hartung had falls for Florida on the beam.
"On the beam the two mistakes that happened were out of not trusting themselves," Faehn said. "In an environment like this, it's crucial.
"It was a test to see mentally who can handle this situation. It's not the result we wanted gymnastically, but it's going to help us later."
Florida rested one of its top gymnasts, sophomore Nicola Willis, through much of the meet. She competed only on the vault, scoring 9.8.
Lutz was Florida's best performer, scoring 9.85 on both the beam and bars. Hartung scored 38.575 as the meet's only all-arounder.
Florida will host top-ranked defending national champion Georgia next Friday at 7 p.m. at O'Connell Center.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 8 Florida gymnastics team (4-1, 0-1 SEC) couldn't close the gap during the final rotation, dropping a 195.775-194.625 decision at No. 4 Alabama (8-0, 1-0 SEC) on Friday evening in front of a Coleman Coliseum crowd of 15,162. The crowd was the third largest in the history of collegiate gymnastics.
The Gators trailed the Tide by just .20 heading into the final rotation, but UF was forced to count a fall toward its beam total, making it impossible to catch Alabama as it closed the meet on the floor exercise.
Although Florida had its trouble on beam, the Gators swept the top two places on the event. Junior Samantha Lutz took the evening's beam title at 9.85, while Breanne King took second overall at 9.825.
Florida also experienced some problems during their opening event, the uneven bars, posting a 48.20. This was the first meet of the season that a fall was counted against the Gators' team score.
Lutz matched her season-best mark of 9.85 on the uneven bars, while freshman Corey Hartung also matched her 2006 best of 9.80. Defending NCAA uneven bars champion Terin Humphrey claimed the bars title with her mark of 9.90.
Florida hosts No. 1 Georgia, the defending NCAA champion, on Friday, Jan. 27. Meet time is set for 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

Men's swim team remains unbeaten in conference play

The seventh-ranked Florida men's swimming team (8-2, 4-0) defeated No. 22 Alabama 178-97 Friday at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium to stay undefeated in the Southeastern Conference.
The Gators won 13 of the 16 events during the competition.
Sophomore Grant Johnson defeated Alabama's Mark Randall, who entered Friday's meet as the reigning U.S. Open Champion and SEC leader in the 500 free with a season-best time of 4:16.51. Johnson edged Randall with a time of 4:26.44. In the process, Johnson became the 13th Florida swimmer to earn an NCAA provisional time.
The Gators host No. 1 Auburn today at the O'Connell Center.
  • WOMEN'S SWIMMING: No. 4 Florida notched a pair of wins over Alabama and Arkansas in SEC action at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium.
    The Gators downed the Crimson Tide 79-60, and bested the Razorbacks 91-42 in the double dual meet to move to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC for the season.
    In the 200 medley relay, Samantha Vanderbilt, Vipa Bernhardt, Dana Vollmer and Natalie Pike notched a 1:42.98 to take top honors in the event.
  • MEN'S TENNIS: Junior All-American Janne Holmia and senior Ryan Sherry registered wins in the opening round of singles action at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships, which were held at the University of Kentucky's Boone Tennis Center and Lexington Tennis Club.
    Holmia defeated Pierre Mouillon in three sets by a final count of 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, and will move onto today's second round, facing the SEC Indoors No. 1 seed John Isner of Georgia. Isner beat South Carolina's Pedro Rodrigues 6-1, 6-2.
    Sherry won 6-3, 6-2, in straight sets over Tennessee's David Baxendine. Sherry takes on second-seeded Strahinja Bobusic of Georgia today.
    UF hosts Gator Invitational today The No. 15 Florida men's track and field team and the women's squad will bring in a total of five ranked teams to Gainesville beginning at10:30 a.m today for the Gator Invitational at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
    Four ranked teams on the men's side (No. 2 Florida State, No. 6 Tennessee, No. 15 Florida, No. 18 South Carolina) will have athletes competing, while two ranked women's squads will take part (No. 1 Tennessee, No. 3 South Carolina).
    Other schools bringing athletes include East Carolina, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Jacksonville.
    -Special to the Sun
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