Top-ranked Gators advance to Super Six
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 12:35 a.m.
LOS ANGELES — To stay on course Friday, the top-seeded Florida Gators needed an anchor.
What: 2013 NCAA Gymnastics Championships
Where: New Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
Television: Meet airs tape-delayed on ESPNU on April 30 at 8 p.m.
Saturday: Super Six team final at 7 p.m.: No. 1 Florida (197.775), No. 3 Alabama (197.35), No. 5 LSU (197.325), No. 6 UCLA (197.2), No. 2 Oklahoma (197.2) and No. 4 Georgia (197.150)
Sunday: Individual event finals, 4 p.m.
Bridget Sloan did more than keep UF afloat in the semifinal round of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships at Pauley Pavilion, she steered the Gators to a first-place finish, advancing Florida to Saturday's Super Six championship round.
The Gators, ranked No. 1 in seven of the last nine ratings going into the championship event, scored 197.775 to run away with the competition.
Sloan, a freshman from Pittsboro, Ind., had two key performances to steady Florida after its only major miscues of the meet. She also provided a spark on the uneven bars on the way to a 39.6 score, good for an individual all-around national championship.
Florida got its first major mistake out of the way quickly. Starting on floor exercise, Kiersten Wang flubbed a tumbling run to score 8.825. Sloan followed with a 9.9 to assure that there would be no panic in the UF camp. The Gators were solid the rest of the way and didn't have to count Wang's score on the way to a 49.325 on the event.
"Something that's vital to the team is how they do respond, because nobody is going to be absolutely perfect," Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. "I loved how the team responded to that challenge."
It turned out to be Florida's lowest event score of the day. The Gators assaulted the vault with relish, with three scores of 9.9 to highlight a 49.45 turn.
Sloan provided a jolt of energy on the uneven bars with her 9.925 routine. Mackenzie Caquatto added a high score of 9.95 as Florida cruised to a 49.525 score.
By that point, Florida could have advanced by just hugging the balance beam and avoiding any falls, but there was yet one more minor scare. Rachel Spicer started the event with a wobbly 9.4, but Sloan was there again to guide the Gators to safety with another 9.9. Florida scored 49.475 on beam.
"I was like, 'Guys, guys, relax.' We have done these routines so many times, one little mistake is not going to throw our whole entire lineup off," Sloan said. "When I went out there, I really just had a blast.
"If somebody had a mistake, it was my job to get the ball rolling again."
LSU and Georgia also advanced from the afternoon session. Florida will join those Southeastern Conference rivals and the three qualifiers from Friday's night session — two-time defending champion Alabama, host UCLA and second-ranked Oklahoma — in Saturday's championship round.