Freshman Orientation: Florida

The biggest news of the weekend is Lexie Priessman’s verbal commitment to Georgia for 2015-2016. It seems like an appropriate fit stylistically, although who knows how the tenor of the team will change under Durante, if at all. Priessman is currently on the Olympic track, so early verbals like this are always to be taken with a hefty tablespoon of squinting.

But continuing our look at the new friends who will be gracing us with their skills this season, we turn to Florida. Of the top teams, Florida should be the least concerned about routine replacement from last season, and yet the Gators have the most accomplished freshman class of the bunch. Recall as well that Aly Raisman was going to be part of this class had that been a realistic commitment.

Last season, the Gators boasted four excellent routines on each apparatus, and Bridget Sloan and Bridgette Caquatto could certainly jump in and make that six out of six on each event (and that is not taking into account a potentially healthy Mackenzie Caquatto because I still have questions about the viability of those ankles). There should be no concerns about talent level here; health will be the biggest factor.

Bridget Sloan

Vault


Bars


Beam


Floor

Certainly, Sloan is capable of scoring 9.900+ on any event. Some of the most accomplished elite recruits of recent years still have a weaker event, but Sloan has proven adept enough on all four (even though beam has been a struggle over the years, I see her making that lineup). If all goes to plan, she will be among the prime favorites for the AA title.

We don’t know how things have been going for her since the elbow injury at Trials, and while she said that there would be a significant recovery time, there are no indications that it will legitimately impede her season. The biggest problem for Sloan will be that this is not a one-off injury. She has been constantly injured for the last three and a half years. Assuming that she is going to stay totally healthy for an extended period as a Gator is a gamble I wouldn’t be willing to make right now.

Injury history is the usual concern with elites coming in to NCAA, but as we saw with Caquatto the Elder last season, the Gators are deep enough that they can absorb an injury to a top contributor. That depth only increases this season. It’s sort of crazy that they might not even need a healthy Sloan to win the title this year.

Bridgette Caquatto

Vault


Bars


Beam


Floor

I know that she is a Bridgey, but I’m going with Bridgette for now because I’m giving her an opportunity to decide whether she still wants to be Bridgey in college. She may decide to change her identity. How many Katies did you know who suddenly became Kat within two weeks of freshman year starting? Although, Rhonda does love her nicknames. Her press conferences are always full of “BeBe and ReeRee and LoLo will be going on beam this week,” and sometimes you need a Gator-to-English dictionary to figure it out.

Caquatto the Younger is the big mystery of the year. After her success at Pan Ams last year, she just sort of went to Texas and disappeared with injury, opting out of the Olympic process. She was going to be a major long shot for the Olympic team, even under the healthiest of circumstances. It could end up being the best decision because it may allow her to be more refreshed going into NCAA than some of her elite counterparts, but since we haven’t seen her in a year, it’s difficult to know what to make of her quality. She’ll have to show me something in the consistency territory, especially on beam (hits in competition have been rare), but the potential is obviously there. On bars, I’d love to see them either scrap the toe-on skills or teach her a both-legs-at-a-time technique.

Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto

Vault


Bars


Beam


Floor

Now, I hope this one doesn’t take a nickname because I find myself really enjoying saying the full name Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto as much as possible. She’s in a similar situation to Kiersten Wang last season where it will be difficult for her to prove valuable enough to make a postseason lineup with all this depth. Wang did end up making vault (and credit to her for how much her vault improved from January to April), but lineups are going to get even harder this year for both of them, especially if Rhonda maintains the strategy of deciding her six early. She doesn’t hold as much with exploring depth and saving gymnasts as some other coaches. That beam lineup didn’t change one inch all of last season.

That isn’t to say Dancose-Giambattisto isn’t skilled. There’s some potential on bars and beam, but the team may just be too deep for her. I contend she was a bit of a recruiting miss for some other top teams who could have used her more. Perhaps she just really wanted to go to Florida, and I do think the Gators can use her in places during the season. She could be a backup on two events when the inevitable injury occurs.

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