2018 Outlook – Georgia Bulldogs

GEORGIA ROSTER 2018
Seniors
Jasmine Arnold
BB
FX
  • Has not competed a routine in first three seasons
Vivi Babalis
VT
BB
FX
  • Staple of BB, FX lineups
  • UGA’s top RQS on BB in 2017 (9.875)
  • Aattempting to add VT for 2018
Lauren Johnson
(redshirt)
VT
UB
  • Will contribute VT, be an option on UB
  • 9.860 VT RQS in 2017 was 2nd on team
Gigi Marino
VT
FX
  • Necessity in VT and FX lineups
  • 9.930 RQS on FX in 2017
  • 10.0 start value on VT (Y1.5)
Hayley Sanders
UB
BB
  • Finally made UB,BB lineups in 2017
  • RQS of 9.820 on BB, 9.785 on UB
Natalie Vaculik
VT
UB
BB
  • Competed UB twice in 2017 for 9.825 avg
  • Previously a regular in UB lineup, BB when hitting, VT sometimes
Juniors
Gracie Cherrey
UB
  • Did not compete in 2017 with all the injuries
  • Previously member of UB lineup for 9.795
Sydney Snead
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Team-best sets on VT, UB and weekly FX in 2017
  • 10.0 start on VT with Y1.5
  • Likely needed for AA in 2018
Sophomores
Rachel Dickson
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Regular AA contributor in 2017 when healthy (and after figuring out BB)
  • Will compete AA in 2018
  • RQSs ranged from 9.790 (BB) to 9.905 (FX)
Jordyn Pedersen
UB
  • Did not compete in first season
Sabrina Vega
VT
BB
FX
  • Leadoff BB and weekly FX in 2017 for 9.850s
  • Did not fall on BB in 2017
  • Added VT for 2018
Freshmen
Ashley Foss
BB
FX
  • Tore Achilles in March 2017
  • Hoping to be back before end of season
Madison McPherson
  • Will miss 2018 with shoulder injury
Marissa Oakley
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Everest
  • 3rd UB at 2017 US Nationals
  • Returning from shoulder injury
Emily Schild
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Everest
  • 13th at 2016 US Olympic Trials
  • Out with fractured kneecap, expected back mid-season

Recent History
2017 – 12th
2016 – 6th
2015 – 9th
2014 – 5th
2013 – 6th
2012 – 11th
2011 – 9th
2010 – 13th

It’s…a…new old world to me. It’s a new old world and we are heeeeere.

Courtney Kupets and Suzanne Yoculan. That takes us back. Georgia is attempting to reinvent itself for the third time in eight years, this time by trotting out all the old hits from your youth and hoping the magic is still there. Suzanne is our Backstreet Boys.

Because of last year’s finish and the overall composition of the roster, expectations will not be particularly high for 2018. But really, Georgia’s outlook should be divided into two categories. “Without Schild and Oakley in the AA” is a team that will struggle early in the season and plop down some low scores. “With Schild and Oakley in the AA” is a team that can still make nationals and will expect to do so.

The Kupets Administration will have a long leash in terms of results (multiple seasons to get things right) because in many ways, bringing Suzanne back is a last-ditch effort. Where do you go from here if it doesn’t work? This is the only plan left. Nonetheless, the team will expect to reach nationals, even if doing so isn’t make-it-or-break-it for this coaching staff. Georgia doesn’t miss nationals.


Vault
Lineup locks
Snead (9.915), Johnson (9.860), Dickson (9.845), Marino (9.825)
Lineup options
Oakley (FR), Schild (FR), Vega (-), Babalis (-)

Georgia showed just five vaulters, all performing Yurchenko fulls, at last weekend’s intrasquad, highlighting concerns about the team’s depth. No team is going to contend realistically in the SEC without at least a few 10.0 starts and a whole lineup of (at minimum) 9.8s.

But, that’s preseason. In the season, expect to see Snead with a 1.5 leading the lineup for 9.9s and Marino contributing a 1.5 of her own. Dickson and Johnson should also return with fulls to make up a usable and competitive four. Johnson did not vault over the weekend, but she’s not expected to be out on vault for any real period.

Because Schild is trying to return from a knee injury, I’m not holding out hope for a HUGE vault this season. Still, Georgia will want her back in the lineup with something by March/April, probably along with Oakley to fill out a six. Oakley showed a fine full at the intrasquad in a lineup that can become acceptable in time. Vault is not going to be a strength. It’s not going to be 49.4s every week. But you can easily see a 49.250 for that group of six.

Where things get more dicey is when backups have to be used. That’s definitely going to happen early in the year and maybe throughout the year. Vega is returning to vault—showing an acceptably 9.7ish full at the intrasquad—but it’s not necessarily a score Georgia will want to count yet. Babalis is also said to be training vault as needed, but that’s about it. When the depth is tested, Georgia won’t really have a lot of options and could struggle to get competitive numbers. If Vega’s vault has to count, and if it’s one of Marino’s bad-landing days, things can get 49.0 very quickly.


Bars
Lineup locks
Snead (9.890), Dickson (9.865)
Lineup options
Schild (FR), Oakley (FR), Johnson (9.835), Vaculik (9.825), Sanders (9.785)

The key to bars for Georgia will be getting the Everest twins, Schild and Oakley, healthy and into the lineup. Both excelled on bars in elite and will be counted on for big bars scores over the next four years. Because Schild’s is a leg injury, bars is her most likely event to get back. Oakley’s, however, is a shoulder injury, so while she’s already back on vault and semi-floor, bars will take longer.

By April, having both routines in the lineup will be essential, and if they are, Georgia should be quite competitive. A lineup ending with Schild, Oakley, Dickson, and Snead needs to get multiple 9.9s. The issue is the rest of the roster. Team Kupoculan has brought back Vaculik‘s Gienger (phew, sanity returns to the world), and I expect her to compete frequently. Beyond that, there will be options from Johnson and Sanders, both of whom competed last year but have enough form breaks in their routines to the point where 9.7 is always a justifiable score.

At its best, this lineup could get 49.4, but before Schild and Oakley are back, there will be rough days. At the intrasquad, we saw only five routines without an obvious sixth option presenting itself (unless Pedersen or Cherrey comes back from the dead?). January could present some five-up, sub-49 meets, the hope being that the team can scrape together the six good ones for when it really matters.


Beam
Lineup locks
Babalis (9.875) Vega (9.840), Dickson (9.790), Snead (9.756)
Lineup options
Schild (FR), Oakley (FR), Sanders (9.820), Vaculik (9.678 in 2016), Arnold (-)

I’ve said it before, but it might actually be true this time, that beam is Georgia’s best event this season. Vega is the key. Expect her to get the team’s highest scores now that she has moved to the anchor spot. While beam has not been a great event for Dickson and Snead in the past, that’s because of consistency not ability. Getting them hitting every week is a #1 project for this coaching staff, and if it happens, both are 9.9 capable. (Or 9.850 for Snead if she’s leading off.)

As on bars, a healthy Schild and Oakley would basically be locks for the beam lineup because both are quite crisp and extended in their work. That’s already a talented, nationally competitive five, if still a little terrifying. I lean toward Babalis, last year’s RQS leader, as the sixth member because she has the fewest built-in form deductions of the remaining options, but getting credit for her acro series is always a nail-biter than can jeopardize her place. Still, she gets in for me over Vaculik, who can be gorgeous on beam but is way too nerve-wracking. The same thing we’ve said for four years.

Sanders has improved her beam by ditching the standing front tuck for a punch front (we saw encouraging evidence of a couple smarter composition choices in the intrasquad), so she can be a choice. We also saw an actual gymnastics routine from Arnold in the intrasquad (wonder of wonders), but it is a backup set rather than a top-six set. Still, Georgia does have real backup routines on beam to be used before Schild and Oakley are ready, making lineup composition a little less troubling than on vault or bars.


Floor
Lineup locks
Marino (9.930), Dickson (9.905), Babalis (9.850), Vega (9.850), Snead (9.795)
Lineup options
Schild (FR), Oakley (FR), Foss (FR), Arnold (-)

As on beam, Georgia has a heartier slate of options on floor and doesn’t need to be quite as worried about putting together lineups. The team is also less reliant on Schild and Oakley here than on the other three events, meaning we can expect a more competitive number even from the beginning of the season.

Marino will once again be expected to lead the way with her DLO and superior skill amplitude, while Dickson is looking to add the double Arabian full time in 2018, both counting on delivering Georgia its necessary 9.9s. Expect Vega to be a constant as well. The full-in she attempted at the beginning of last season really wasn’t happening, but she should have no problem double piking for 9.875s. Babalis is always around for 9.850s as well, and while Snead struggles more on floor than on vault or bars for some reason, she has the skills to score well and will be a necessity.

That’s already five very usable gymnasts before getting to the injured Schild, Oakley, or Foss. Don’t overlook Foss. She’s still trying to come back from that torn Achilles, but healthy, she would be a very real option on floor, her best event. I’m less sold on Oakley here since floor has always been a physical struggle, but because she’s farther along in her comeback than Schild or Foss, she may be needed early in the season. Also expect to see Arnold finally compete lineups routines, at least at the beginning of the season, with a serviceable double pike set that can get 9.8s.

Georgia should be able to get by on floor and record strong scores at home throughout the season. The 49.3s seem very doable. The question will be whether there are enough 9.9s in the lineup to get those big 49.5s. The scoring ability from Vega and Snead is critical in that regard. I can see them getting 9.900 at home, but will it happen all the time?


Based on these potential lineups, it’s easy to see where the coaches were coming from in giving Georgia a preseason ranking of 16th. The vault and bars lineups are depleted, and January will most likely bring some trying meets. But, if Georgia is able to get healthy enough to put up a very specific six on those two events, and have some real choice on beam and floor, this can still be a nationals-qualifying team. Much depends on Schild—a difference-maker in Georgia’s postseason hopes.

Super Six looks like too much to ask at this point, but nationals doesn’t. Making nationals and finishing 10-12 is never going to be considered a “success” for Georgia, because it’s Georgia, but to me that would count as a successful start of a new era upon which to build, while at the same time still being a realistic expectation.

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4 thoughts on “2018 Outlook – Georgia Bulldogs”

  1. There choreography looked a lot better this year than in past years. I was very impressed. They didn’t look as bad at the first look as people would have thought they looked to be honest. And there going to take the doubt that the whole county has and use that to fuel them into having a great season. They have a lot to prove and it’s going to motivate them. Vaculik really just looks like she lacks confidence and it’s seems to be from the past coaching. There really going to have to attack what’s going on with her because she can be an amazing beam worker

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    1. Arnold was injured in at least one year. I remember reading last season that Arnold had a really nice floor routine and could be a back-up but I believe it only had a 9.90 SV – so it looks like she’s upgraded there.

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  2. Wow, what a great assessment of our team.
    The only correction is that Snead will be competing a double twist on vault. The plan is for her to do it at Alabama, but not sure. We changed the vault because of her back and it seems to have helped. She is doing great right now!

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