UF ATHLETICS NOTEBOOK
Gymnastics opens up SEC schedule against No. 8 LSU
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 7, 2013 at 11:55 p.m.
The third-ranked Florida gymnastics team opens its 2013 Southeastern Conference schedule with a dual meet against No. 8 LSU Friday night in Baton Rouge.
UF (1-0), the 2012 NCAA runner-up and SEC Champion, opened its regular season with an easy 196.575-190.550 win over visiting Ball State Friday in the O'Connell Center, but should get a good early-season test from the Tigers.
“Friday night's competition was really wonderful,” head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was our first meet back in the O-Dome, and we had so many new faces, especially with our freshmen getting out there and getting to see what it's like to compete in the O'Connell Center but also just to compete in collegiate gymnastics.
“We were able to evaluate film footage Sunday, and we definitely achieved what we were looking to for the first meet. We're excited to head to LSU this weekend.”
Gator fans got their first look at heralded freshman Bridget Sloan, the 2009 World all-around champion, Friday and she did not disappoint. In her first event, Sloan tied for the vault title with senior Ashanee Dickerson, each with a 9.925, then she added a pair of 9.8s on the uneven bars and balance beam before turning cheerleader for Florida's final rotation, the floor exercise.
“Bridget Sloan is just so fun,” Faehn said. “It's nice to see her personality come out. In every practice, she's very disciplined and very hard-working, but at the same time, she really just lights it up. Everyone just feeds off that energy and her enthusiasm, and that really showed in the competition Friday night.”
Fresh off an exciting 77-72 over LSU in their 2013 SEC home opener Sunday, the Gators (12-4, 1-1) travel to Starkville, Miss., Thursday to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-7, 0-2) at 8 p.m.
UF had taken No. 6 Kentucky to the wire before falling, 76-69, in Lexington in its SEC opener.
“We were really excited about the opportunity to go to Kentucky and start our SEC season and came up a little bit short, but I think the way that game went – the toughness that we displayed – kind of bolstered our confidence a little bit and empowered some of our players who really had to play big roles going down the stretch Sunday,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “You always want to be tested and find out where you are, and the earlier you're tested, the better.”
Butler noted that senior All-SEC forward Jennifer George, who sustained a shoulder injury late in Sunday's win, was being evaluated Monday but that early indications were positive.
“She'll probably be day-to-day this week as they kind of just see how her pain is and those sorts of things,” Butler said, “but it's not worst-case scenario by any means.”
UF returns home to face No. 12 Tennessee (11-3, 2-0) in a nationally televised game (ESPNU) Sunday with an early tip-off at 11:30 a.m.
Two-time defending NCAA champion UF heads into the spring ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Individually, six Gators are ranked nationally, led by junior Sofie Oyen who used a fantastic fall performance to earn the nation's No. 1 singles ranking, with senior Lauren Embree coming in at No. 5 and freshman Danielle Collins also earning a top-25 nod with a No. 22 ranking.
Head coach Roland Thornqvist's focus is now on putting together some top-flight doubles pairings.
“I think we have our work cut out for us a little bit the next few weeks in that we don't really know what we're going to do with doubles,” he said. “In all my years here, we've had some really, really good doubles pairings, and at this point, we are basically starting anew trying to figure out what we're going to do with our pairings.”
UF competes at the Freeman Memorial individual tournament in Las Vegas, Jan. 17-21, before opening dual-match play with back-to-back matches at home against South Florida and UCF Jan. 29-30.