Showdown pits No. 1 Gators vs. No. 2 'Dawgs


Published: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
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Florida's Nicola Willis competes in the uneven bars in the season-opener against Oregon State at the O'Connell Center

CELIA TOBIN/Special to The Sun
Florida wants what Georgia has - the NCAA gymnastics national championship trophy. Conversely, second-ranked Georgia is after what Florida currently possesses - the nation's No. 1 ranking.
Those elements, along with the omnipresent Florida-Georgia rivalry, will make today's 4 p.m. showdown between these teams at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., one of the most anticipated dual meets of the season.
That is a fact not lost on Gators coach Rhonda Faehn.
"Our heading into Georgia this weekend being No. 1, I'm sure that's going to increase their attendance and the environment, without a doubt," Faehn said.
It certainly will. Georgia's 10,523-seat Stegeman Coliseum is sold out for today's meet, aside from a few hundred reserved student tickets. That, however, is not a rarity. The Bulldogs are accustomed to big-time meets.
Georgia has won three straight SEC Championships and two consecutive national championships. The Bulldogs are also an astounding 7-0 against No. 1-ranked teams in regular-season dual meets. What's unique about today's matchup, however, is that this is the first time Florida has faced Georgia as the nation's No. 1 team.
Faehn said she is hoping her veteran team, which features five seniors, can handle the environment in Athens today.
"It's important we really just focus on ourselves and not look at the things we can't control - the audience, what Georgia's doing," Faehn said. "All of those things are out of our control. If we look at that, it will be our downfall."
Many of the current Gators, however, have made history in Athens. The Gators defeated the Bulldogs in their last trip to Stegeman Coliseum in 2005. It was the school's first win in Athens in 20 years. It was also Florida's first dual meet win over Georgia since 1983.
The Gators enter today's meet with some momentum after coming from behind to edge Alabama Jan. 19 in the O'Connell Center. Florida used five consecutive 9.90s on the floor and three straight Crimson Tide falls on the beam to win.
Faehn knows her team needs to be more consistent today to defeat the Bulldogs.
"We can't perform the way we did against Alabama at the University of Georgia," Faehn said. "They are the defending national champions and obviously a very, very strong team. We have to go in there and compete aggressively and come out strong on bars right from the start."
Both teams will wear pink today to support Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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