Florida falters on floor to give Alabama an SEC title
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 11:41 p.m.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Only one gymnastics team had defeated the top-ranked Florida Gators all year.
That is still true, only Alabama has now done it twice.
Alabama, ranked No. 4, surged from behind to overtake the defending national champion Gators 197.875 to 197.7 on Saturday at the SEC Championship at BJCC Arena.
Two-time defending SEC champion Florida gave Alabama all the help it needed. The Gators went into the final rotation with a comfortable lead, but Florida started and finished the floor exercise in disastrous fashion.
Claire Boyce had a major mishap, scoring 9.2 in the lead-off position. That mistake could have been overcome in a sport where one score for each team in each of the four events is dropped, but only if Florida avoided another mistake.
That mistake came in the final routine of the night, when usually solid sophomore Bridgette Caquatto stepped out of bounds, resulting in a deduction that lowered her score to 9.75, cementing Alabama's championship.
“That was very uncharacteristic of Claire, no doubt,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said, “... then Bridgette going out of bounds there, she hasn't done that all year.”
Said Caquatto, “We had kind of a little bit more pressure than usual on the last routine because we had a fall on the first routine. I just went out there and did the best that I could, but I went out of bounds on the last pass.
“I'm a little disappointed in myself. I feel like I could have helped the team out a little bit more.”
Florida sizzled to what seemed to be a comfortable lead by the midpoint of the meet behind Bridget Sloan, who went on to win the individual all-around with a score of 39.7.
Alabama gained some ground while Florida was on the balance beam and the Crimson Tide were on the vault, but Kytra Hunter's 9.925 to close out UF's rotation earned her the SEC beam title and seemed to put the Gators in position to close out another league championship.
Florida can look forward to a possible third shot at Alabama, and in the same building. Both UF and the Crimson Tide are expected to be in the field at the NCAA Championship, which begins April 18 at the BJCC.
“I think it's going to be great fuel,” Faehn said. “It will motivate them to train harder the next couple of weeks to get prepared for the regionals and come out fighting really hard.”
Sloan can't wait.
“During the regular season we had a great streak going, and then when we went to the University of Alabama it was our first loss of the season,” she said, “and instead of taking that and moping on it, we went back to the gym come Monday and we were like, 'We have got to get this. We have got to make everything as big as possible,' and we did. We're going to come back from this.”