Tidal shift: Florida avenges NCAA loss to Alabama
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 9:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:23 a.m.
Top-ranked Florida's performance Friday against two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama brings to mind two words.
Who: No. 1 UF at No. 6 Georgia
When: Feb. 16, 4 p.m.
Where: Athens, Ga.
Powered by six personal-best marks highlighted by freshman Bridget Sloan's winning all-around score of 39.675 and senior Ashanee Dickerson's near-perfect 9.975 floor exercise mark, UF (5-1, 4-1) posted the second-highest team score in program history in downing the No. 5 Crimson Tide, 198.100-196.850 before an enthralled O'Connell Center crowd of 8,074.
“It was incredible,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was exactly what we were looking for; how our athletes were going to respond to a pressure situation.
“Right from the start, they fought for every little thing, and that was impressive. Everyone competed with fire, and it really showed. The performance factor stepped up another level.”
Gator athletes won four of the five titles awarded, led by a 1-2 finish in the all-around competition from Sloan and Dickerson (39.650). Junior Mackenzie Caquatto shared the bars title with Sloan, each with a 9.95, Caquatto added the beam title with a winning 9.925 and Dickerson put the icing on the cake in her favorite event with a mesmerizing performance on the floor that had the enthusiastic crowd — the ninth-largest in history — raising the O'Dome roof.
“The crowd was so involved,” Faehn said. “They were loud, they were on their feet cheering. It was the best atmosphere we've ever had, at least in the 11 years that I've been here.”
Alabama (3-2, 3-2), which posted its second-highest team mark of the season, did get a win from senior Marissa Gutierrez on the vault with a 9.95 that tied her personal best. Otherwise, the Tide's only other top-three finishes came from junior Kim Jacob, who placed third in both the all-around (39.425) and on the beam.
Making UF's performance all the more eye-opening was that sophomore sensation Kytra Hunter, who has been recently slowed by a foot injury and the flu, had a rare off night, suffering falls on both the bars and beam.
But she did bounce back to score a 9.95 on the floor, tying senior All-American Marissa King for second in the event behind Dickerson.
“I think it means that we just have an incredible team,” Sloan said. “There is so much talent on this team right now, and it's an awesome feeling being on a team like that. It's nice to know that even if you rest a week, there's somebody who can take your place that can nail that routine.”
Next up, UF travels to face No. 6 Georgia next Saturday in another key Southeastern Conference meet.