Massive Friday Live Blog – Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Utah

Follow along after the jump from 8:00 ET/5:00 PT for live commentary on Florida @ Alabama and other national scores.

Florida/Alabama: Watch Live
Georgia/Utah: Watch Live

Of these four major teams competing tonight, Alabama is under the most pressure.  Remember, they are the defending champions.  Somehow, it’s easy to forget that.  If any of the other three bomb out, they still have at least one big score to fall back on.  If Alabama does, they will really suffer with confidence and rankings.  The performance against Auburn exposed the need for Stack-Eaton to be in that lineup for them to be truly successful.  Priess can’t carry them alone.  These freshmen need to start being more effective contributors, and the sophomores need to break out of their 9.800-9.850 range.

Utah is the #1 team in the country.  It’s been a while.  In contrast to some of the other teams and gymnasts (with Kytra Hunter the notable exception), Utah stands out because their freshmen have really stepped up to contribute big scores and lead rotations.  Georgia put together a good meet last week, but they still have a few more holes in their lineups than Utah does, which, combined with the influence of home advantage, makes me favor Utah.  Georgia and Florida are in similar situations where they both need to prove that last week is the rule not the exception.

Stuff and nonsense here:

Popping in with an update—beleaguered Michigan, with their 2 ¼ healthy gymnasts, scraped along to a languid 194.650 against West Virginia’s 194.000.  If they even had six bar routines, they could have managed at least a 195, but Zurales did only vault and floor.  If they had even a little depth, they would be a top 10 team.

If you ever want evidence that win-loss record is meaningless and should never be used to evaluate anything in college gym, know that Michigan is undefeated on the season.

We’re “thirty” minutes out from Alabama/Florida, but Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska should be getting underway “soon”—though remember that everything in NCAA gym happens 18 minutes late.  According to the lineups, Arkansas will be sending up only five gymnasts on floor.  This is troubling, but Grable and Pisani have been worth 1.5 routines this year anyway, so they may not notice.  On the other hand, Nebraska is finally fielding six floor workers, so it’s a February miracle.

Turned on the Alabama broadcast.  The cheerleaders are trying to tumble on floor.  Oh sweet heavens the form and the falls.  This is some Becky Cameron nonsense out there on the floor right now.

Oh good.  More dance contests.  Aren’t we having fun?  This is why I have trouble with some SEC meets.  It’s like they don’t trust the crowd to enjoy the gymnastics.

In tolerable news, Oklahoma and Nebraska are level at 49.225 after one rotation.

We had a tolerable vault with a good landing and just a little form to start from Clark to start for Alabama.

Priess is vaulting.  Hmmm, unexpected.

Ashanee had wonky handstands and toes as always.  Remember that time she got a 9.925 last week?  Didn’t stick the dismount, and she needs that to make the judges forget.

Good distance from Sledge on vault, but a low chest and hop back.  She can do better.

Kytra was pretty clean throughout her routine, one of her better ones.  Tried to hold on to the stick on her tuck full dismount.

Gutierrez sticks with a minor leg sepraration.  It will be telling what the judges do.

The DLOs aren’t quite in place for Florida tonight.  King a little short.

Really important that Stack-Eaton is back for Alabama.  Good vault with a slide back, a little body position that I didn’t like – but she had that on her 10 as well, so…

Macko is getting her bars back.  The handstands still aren’t quite there, but it will come.

Milliner sticks an excellent Y1.5, one of the best I’ve seen her do.  I could see 9.95 here.  The judges go 10, but she didn’t quite have the legs for it for me – it’s sort of like when Tauny Frattone sticks.  The judges judged themselves into a corner here after the 9.950 for Gutierrez, for me the vaults were essentially equivalent, but Milliner’s was more difficult.

Johnson performs her usual beautiful routine, but had to struggle to hold on to the landing, and that will hurt her.

I wasn’t paying attention to the scores until now that we’re in exhibition territory.  Alabama goes 49.600 on vault, which is colossal.  Across the board I think everyone was about .05 high, which is to be expected at home.  It was a very nice rotation that can get better.  Where do you go from 49.600?  Judging on bars appeared to be mostly appropriate, but Florida seem just a bit tight in those handstands, which prevented them from going higher.

After Rotation 1: Alabama 49.600, Florida 49.225
Vault hasn’t been the problem for Alabama this season, so we’ll see where they go from here on bars.  Florida needs to find some competitive 1st and 2nd vaults.  They can’t be scoring in the 9.7s.

Rotation 2
Good distance from Spicer, some leg separation and perhaps a slide back.

Really aggressive, strong routine from Sledge with a gorgeous DLO.  Have I mentioned how this shouldn’t be first?

Ellis has a big step back on vault, but good enough form and direction.

Alexin rushes these handstands, which makes the routine look uncertain and sloppy.  No stick.

Ashanee’s usual vault with a big step back.  Important to have Johnson in this lineup with a nice vault, not her 2011 level yet, though.  The landing will come.

I’m not wild about the composition for Demeo at the beginning, but it’s an efficient routine with a hit jaeger.  Near stick on DLO.

Marissa King had a little hop on landing, and then did a major leap on her salute.  If they’re feeling picky, they could deduct for it, which would bring her way down.

Just a small step on the dbl arabian for Stack-Eaton – a good routine after missing last week with just one short hs.

Hunter has a Y1.5 with excellent form, a .1 hop forward on dismount.  The legs were better than Milliner, though.

Priess hits well to end things for Alabama, just a little piked on the DLO and a step back.

In all, this rotation was solid, but not the level of gymnastics from either team that we saw in the last one.  If Sledge were competing 5th, she probably would have gone 9.925.  They NEED those kind of scores in this rotation.

Both teams go 49.250 in this rotation, meaning our running total is Alabama 98.850, Florida 98.475
Alabama has the big guns in and they are going for that 197 mark.  I’m really interested to see who is the stronger floor team tonight.  That will be a big battle in April.

Rotation 3:
Great solid leadoff on beam from Jacob except for a seemingly unnecessary wobble on the popa and a step on dismount.

Ferguson leads off floor with a hit, energetic routine, very 9.800.

Milliner puts up another very strong beam routine, but she always looks scared to death when she competes beam, which takes you out of her routine.  Also, I hate that color lipstick, but mostly the scared to death thing.

Stageberg is a little low on her mount, but hits the second pass beautifully.  It’s good, clean, early-lineup gymnastics.  It’s not BIG, but it’s solid.

Sledge had some minor wobbles, and like Milliner, I’m not convinced that she believes on this event, but she hit well, so it’s a victory.

I’m not really feeling the dbl arabian for Marissa King, it’s a little low and looks like she stumbles out of it even when she doesn’t.  Poor second pass, low with a large step forward.  They’ll probably need to drop this.

Obviously a basic Miley Cyrus deduction during Gutierrez’s set on beam, but that was the biggest flaw in another hit routine.

Crazy cowboy and step back from Johnson on her dbl arabian, she did very well to even get that around to her feet.  She still has a little bit of elite disease where she only remembers to perform when she’s not doing a skill.

Thus far, Alabama looks like the better prepared team, which is accounting for the scores.  Another hit from Demeo (with another gainer full.  ugh, go away).  Even the gymnasts who look scared to death aren’t wobbling much.

Good secure tumbling from Dickerson, the most solid competitor so far.  We were never worried during her routine like some of the others earlier in the lineup.

Priess hitting beam.  Her L turn is very CGA.  And another hit from the gainer full sisters.  I have higher expectations for Alabama than that.  Is there any reason to?

Kytra just has another level of elevation, even more than power gymnasts like Dickerson.  When we talk about a distinctive quality – that’s it.  They’ve been working on her leaps.  Just a little low on her dismount.

In rotation 3, Alabama goes 49.425 and Florida goes 49.100.  Totals: Alabama 148.275, Florida 147.575. Both on a nice pace.  Alabama would have to go 49.500 on floor to match Florida’s season record to this point, which I don’t see happening, but they would need a notable mistake to prevent them breaking 197. Away from home, if Florida can go high 196s, that’s a very respectable score.  No shame in that even if they lose.  Alabama has a point to prove.  After this meet, I would like them to prove the difficult beam dismount point that they were trying to prove when they were training all those double pike dismounts.

Over in the land of Utah people, Georgia leads by a nose after the first rotation.  Highest scores are 9.925s from Dabritz on vault and Ding on bars – no surprise with either of those.

Rotation 4:
Stageberg hits to start.  The series+dismount combo is even more popular this year, but we’re seeing that it doesn’t quite work on everyone, just a little sloppy here.

Kim Jacob’s routine is very elite circa 2003, does anyone else get that feeling?  She usually leads off this rotation with a low 9.8, and this should be no different.

Florida getting in on the gainer full act with Spicer, this is what she was recruited for – solid early-rotation gymnastics and an ability to hit beam in all situations.

Good hit from Ashley Sledge, though I almost feel the same way about layout+layout middle passes as I do about gainer fulls.  Better than average double pike dismount.

Beam is still Johnson’s weak event, but she hits.  The team looks more confident than I’ve seen them lately on beam.  It’s not stellar, but it’s clear they’ve had more numbers.

Frost is low on her DLO mount but stands it up well enough.  She needs to commit to this routine a little bit more, it could be a fun one.  You could see that problem coming on the double tuck dismount, but she didn’t put a hand down.  It’s great that she has a DLO, but is this a lineup-worthy routine? (9.625 is high for a routine with those mistakes…)

Ashanee hits her dbl back dismount well (now that’s a beam dismount!) but still has a bit of sleepwalking disorder through her routine.

Milliner starts off with a very nice mount.  Good recovery routine, just a bit of an unexpected bounce back on the dismount, but she stayed in bounds.

Kytra’s loso series is floatier than most, she is really standing out as a star on a team of stars – I’m impressed so far, even if it’s not all there yet.  A big step back on her double back dismount, though, which will hurt the score.

Good hit from Gutierrez, she is performing confidently tonight in her landings.  Very tight form on her double pike dismount.

King had a wobble on her opening acro – I’m surprised at the lack of major wobble from both teams.  I guess I’ve been watching too much UCLA.  Spectacular double full dismount.  Even with the loss, this was a great night for Florida.

(Another sign I’ve been watching a lot of UCLA, I get mad at people for breaking character on floor.)

Priess finishes with another hit.  This was a very confident, efficient performance from both teams tonight.  They both accomplished the goals.  Florida had no letdown after the great score last week, and Alabama broke through with their own great score.  None of the gymnastics knocked anyone’s socks off, which is why the scores will probably go in the “Hrmmm” pile, but it’s very competent and going in a positive direction.

Yes, the scores definitely go in the “Hrmmm” pile.  Alabama records a humongous 197.725 for gymnastics that is great for February but will get better by April.  The theme of the season.

FINAL: Alabama 197.725, Florida 196.900

Now it’s time to check in with our dear friends Georgia and Utah.  Utah had a slight lead at the halfway point.  Apparently Shayla had an 8.600 on floor.  WHY did I miss that?

Nuccio coming up on floor.  Hits her DblA mount well.  Good hit to come back, but they’re not seeing the big scores on this event.

Lothrop anchors beam, and hits well.  Her biggest issue is that everything lacks a little amplitude.  Her dbl back dismount is nice in the air, but she lands low.  It’s 9.8 gymnastics that goes 9.9 because it’s last, it’s a savvy lineup order this year.

Couch anchors floor with her wonky-legged pike full, but a good hit overall.  You can see the relief from everyone that they don’t have to count Shayla’s latest work.  Georgia has their best rotation so far with a 49.300 after Noel Couch gets a…9.950…pardon?  I love judging.  It’s never boring.  She has enough built-in errors to make that impossible.

Utah is showing depth with two gymnasts hitting exos, but I don’t see Wilson in this lineup.  It’s not bad, just not there.

After 3 rotations: Georgia 147.750, Utah 147.650.  This is going to be good.

I like the way the PA announcer says “Timed Warmups Begin,” she sounds like a robot in some sort of sterilized health center in the dystopian future.

Good tuck full to start this routinefrom Tutka  – nice body position.  Unfortunate guitar miming in the choreo, and the 2nd pass was the weakest, but it should score well.  She tumbles confidently.

Couch did well to hit her series because she looked off just a bit in the air.  Slight slide on dismount.  This is what Couch does well – leading off with a hit – not getting a 9.950 anchoring floor.

Just a slight bit out of control from Damianova on her second pass, but this is another strong routine.  Stiff legged landing on the double pike with a shuffle was the biggest deduction in the set.

Not in love with Earls’s legs on her series, but she’s gaining her competition confidence.  Those legs are wild on the double tuck dismount, but it’s a hit.

Robarts cowboys her tuck position in the DblA but brings it around to land well if slightly low and has really flappy legs in the dismount, so this should score lower.  The double pike was nice. (9.875 is very high)

Kat Ding has a little wobble on a full turn and still looks a little uncertain even though this is her best beam season.  I’m starting to unlearn my instincts that she will fall on every skill.  Very close to sticking that dismount but she didn’t.  She wishes.

Dabritz is a little low on mount and steps to the side, but not a true error, but the second pass was short and she had a notable step forward – a larger error.  Impressive that she’s dismounting with a 3/1, but not her best work overall. (9.875 again, they’re getting the same charity that Couch did).

Wobble from Davis on her series – it’s so hard to hit that perfectly.  Another little issue on her aerial cartwheel and again on her front tuck.  Not major deduction on any, but she’s not confident with any of these acro skills yet.

Good landing on mount in terms of legs (I still have body position concerns) nice compact (well, it is Lothrop) dismount.  If the previous went 9.875, this should be clearly higher, though it’s not really that level of routine in the grand scheme.  (9.950 – can I write “See Me” on the judges’ papers?)

Persinger hits as well – Georgia won’t win this meet, but they should be pleased with their trajectory.  Some performers just need a little more refinement to get those 9,825s higher.

Good hit from McAllister – I do love a layout stepout out of a twisting pass.  I don’t even know what to expect from the judges anymore.  9.95 again.  What could they do after Lothrop?

Shayla recovery time?  Stumble on her sheep but stayed on.  A little wobble on the onodi and not quite a sick on the dismount – a solid routine but not her best.

So, Utah gets a humongous 49.500 for what was ultimately a solid but pedestrian rotation.  Everyone was between .050-.100 high.  They outstrip Georgia’s 49.200 on beam to take the meet.

FINAL: Utah 197.150, Georgia 196.950

Even though I’m griping about a lot of the scoring (what incentive is there to be special if everyone is special?), I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen tonight overall.  These teams are hitting very solid February gymnastics.  They don’t look nearly as far away from top form as they did in January, and it’s a very encouraging trajectory for some greatness at the end of the season.  What’s more, it’s not just coming from the big three that we expected.  We could have a legitimate eight really good teams by championships time.

I’m very interested to see how Utah fares the next time on the road – where Lothrop and McAllister won’t be getting 9.950 on floor, that’s for sure.  It will be a test.

Rounding up some other scores:
Oklahoma was on great pace until they had to count a fall on floor and scores 196.475 to lose to Nebraska’s 196.750.  Arkansas did end up throwing in a 6th gymnast on floor, which they needed, and went 196.800 to beat Auburn by a point.

No one is allowing room at the top this week, so even though 196.475 isn’t a bad score, Oklahoma looks to be the one to fall this week (with UCLA still to come – and who knows how that could go?).  Certainly Alabama will move ahead of them.  Because of the way the scoring has been going, teams HAVE to score in the 197s to feel confident of their ranking positions.

Around the rest of the country, we’re seeing a lot of high 195s, which is good for the rest of these teams to somehow try to keep pace.  Notably, LSU scored 196.125.  They seem to be able to go consistently into those low 196s when they hit, and that’s such a dangerous score come regionals time.  If a top team doesn’t hit, LSU will be ready to snatch up that spot.

In Washington, the Huskies are being very 9.750 about everything (and now they will be counting a fall on beam) and Oregon State is being more 9.800 about things.  Oregon State is putting up solid scores, but it won’t keep pace with the top group where 196.800 is considered low for the week.

Oregon State continued having their very 9.800 meet and finished with a 195.975, which will see them fall out of the Top 8 sorority.  Washington scored 194.675 after those falls on beam and a lot of 9.7s.


The Weekend Agenda (February 3rd-5th)

We have a huge weekend ahead of us, with a lot of interesting rivalry matchups that will go a long way toward determining the momentum of the season.  There are a few teams that need a big score this week, otherwise “slow start” begins to become “bad season.”  Stanford and Alabama are two of these teams, but for different reasons.  Alabama has been strong enough, but they haven’t broken out to show they can post a big score.  A meek loss to Florida at home would be disastrous.  On the other hand, Stanford has scored 194 in two of three meets.  If this is to be a year of redemption, they have to start showing talent immediately.

There are so many meets to watch (and keep an eye on Arkansas and Oklahoma, both competing twice this weekend), but I’ll be paying special attention to three meets: Florida/Alabama, Georgia/Utah, and Stanford/UCLA.  Now, due to unfortunate circumstances, Florida/Alabama and Georgia/Utah are at the same time on Friday.  I think I’m going to live blog Florida/Alabama because I’m more interested in the storylines there, and I’ll probably catch up with Georgia/Utah on Saturday.  Florida/Alabama could really go either way, while I’m pretty sure we know what to expect from Georgia/Utah.  It’ll get interesting for Utah once they have to go on the road again.  

Then, on Sunday, I’ll be back to live blog Stanford/UCLA.  Both of those teams are urgently in need of a redeeming score.  I really hope we don’t see more dueling 194s.  Pick it up, everyone.  

Also, watch this video of Florida on vault and bars last weekend for Marissa King’s reaction after vault (and for the crazy overscoring on bars).

Top 25 Schedule:
Friday – 2/3/12
6:00 ET / 3:00 PT – [20] West Virginia @ [22] Michigan
7:30 ET / 4:30 PT – [23] NC State @ [17] Missouri
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [13] Auburn @ [2] Arkansas
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [9] Nebraska, [25] Minnesota, Centenary @ [5] Oklahoma
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [10] Penn State @ [24] Iowa
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Kentucky @ [14] LSU
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – [18] Arizona @ Texas Women’s
8:30 ET / 5:30 PT – [3] Florida @ [6] Alabama
9:00 ET / 6:00 PT – [4] Georgia @ [1] Utah
10:00 ET / 7:00 PT – [8] Oregon State @ [21] Washington

Saturday – 2/4/12
2:00 ET / 11:00 PT – [16] Boise State @ BYU
5:00 ET / 2:00 PT – [11] Ohio State @ [19] Illinois
8:00 ET / 5:00 PT – Iowa State, Alaska @ [15] Denver

Sunday – 2/5/12
3:00 ET / 12:00 PT – [5] Oklahoma @ [2] Arkansas
3:30 ET / 12:30 PT – [12] Stanford @ [7] UCLA

Embarrassment and Road Work

Is it bad that my ears grow eight sizes every time I hear the phrase “disciplinary reasons”?  Do go on…

They really shouldn’t let her wait a few days to do these press conferences.  We need gymnastike in there every week interviewing her immediately (Inexcusable!).

EHH hasn’t really been herself so far this year, so they shouldn’t suffer too much without her except for her consistency on beam.

The team is embarrassed by that tank.  So were we.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

In numbers news, I’ve been harping on the necessity to put up those usable road scores early on for RQS, so let’s take a look at the average road scores for the top 25 teams.

Average Road Score (as of January 31, 2012)
1. Arkansas – 196.575
2. Oklahoma – 196.417
3. Alabama – 196.250
4. Florida – 196.150
4. Georgia – 196.150
6. Utah – 196.075
7. Penn State – 195.792
8. Nebraska – 195.775
9. UCLA – 195.638
10. Ohio State – 195.392
11. Missouri – 195.125
12. LSU – 194.875
13. Arizona – 194.750
14. Stanford – 194.525
15. Denver – 194.517
16. Illinois – 194.388
17. Oregon State – 194.375
18. Auburn – 194.288
19. Iowa – 194.213
20. NC State – 194.138
21. Washington – 194.108
22. Boise State – 193.525
23. West Virginia – 193.475
24. Michigan – 193.150
25. Minnesota – 192.800

Monday Rankings

National Rankings – Week of January 30th
1. Utah – 196.992
2. Arkansas – 196.756
3. Florida – 196.563
4. Georgia – 196.519
5. Oklahoma – 196.444
6. Alabama – 196.325
7. UCLA – 196.231
8. Oregon State – 196.050
9. Nebraska – 195.900
10. Penn State – 195.869
11. Ohio State – 195.519
12. Stanford – 195.117
13. Auburn – 195.106
14. LSU – 194.900
15. Denver – 194.738
16. Boise State – 194.700
17. Missouri – 194.663
18. Arizona – 194.625
19. Illinois – 194.500
20. West Virginia – 194.444
21. Washington – 194.419
22. Michigan – 194.292
23. NC State – 194.250
24. Iowa – 194.181
25. Minnesota – 194.006

Full rankings at Troester

Let’s take a moment and think about how high these scores are.  Utah’s current average is higher than Florida’s was at this point last season, when everyone was raving about Florida running away with the title.  There has been no such discussion about Utah, and I suppose they do have to prove the ability to bring these scores on the road before we start talking about them as title contenders.

Even beyond the top spot, we have a marked increase.  Penn State’s current average puts them at 10th, but it would have been high enough for 5th at this point last season.  And yet, if we then move beyond the top 12, the scores level out in comparison to last year.  Once we get to the Denvers and Missouris and West Virginias of the world, we see that these schools are not getting the same bump in scoring as the top schools are.  So the rich are getting richer while the poorer stay the same.

Why?  There could be several reasons.  The first possible explanation is that the top teams are just more talented than they were last year, and that is reflected in the scores.  It’s quite true that the new freshmen are very strong and that almost all of the top schools have traded up from last year.  But if that is the reason, then the coaches as a whole should be concerned.  What has happened to the parity you all have been lauding for the past few years?  The top schools appear to be distancing themselves from the rest, and looking at incoming recruiting classes for next year, that isn’t changing.

But maybe that’s not the main reason.  Maybe it has more to do with the judges going overboard early in the year (an argument I would support).  But if that’s the case, shouldn’t all the schools be seeing an equal bump?  Maybe it’s just a home scoring issue, that charitable scores at home have increased even more this year for the top teams.  That’s also a major problem.  If only top schools get the benefit of the doubt (or the benefit of blindness), then that has a devastating effect on parity as well.

Other thoughts:

  • UCLA should be thanking their lucky stars that they are still in 7th after the score against Washington.  If they can pick things up against Stanford, they can prevent the same kind of toiling in 9th that they saw last season.
  • Speaking of Stanford, they are yet to break 196 with just six regular season meets remaining.  The time is now.
  • The biggest focus this weekend will be on Alabama, the only top school yet to break 197. Florida will be riding high after their most recent score and will come into Alabama with a ton of momentum.  Just as beating Arkansas at home was a huge confidence statement for Florida last week, beating Florida will be the same for Alabama this week.  A loss or low score will mean a lot of climbing uphill. 
  • Utah has a very strange schedule this year with a ton of home meets and only four road meets.  Expect them to put up another huge number against Georgia (expect both teams to do so), but then the pressure will really be on with road meets against Arizona State and Michigan (where it is particularly tough to score well) if they don’t want to plummet come RQS time.
  • We have a bunch of big rivalry meets this weekend, and scores always tend to go higher in those situations.  We’ll be on alert to see if anyone goes ahead of Florida’s 197.775.  I wouldn’t be surprised if someone does.  In fact, I would be quite surprised if someone doesn’t.  I’m hereby issuing a Severe 198 Warning for the Salt Lake City area on Friday evening between 6pm and 8pm local time.

Top 25 Scores

Scores from the top 25 ranked teams for week 4.

Week 4
1. Florida – 197.775
2. Utah – 197.550
3. Georgia – 197.250
4. Oregon State – 196.800
5. Arkansas – 196.700
6. Oklahoma – 196.475
7. Alabama – 196.275
8. Auburn – 196.250
9. West Virginia – 195.775
10. LSU – 195.750
11. Missouri – 195.725
12. Ohio State – 195.625
13. Penn State – 195.475
14. Denver – 195.400
15. Washington – 195.350
16. UCLA – 194.600
17. Nebraska – 194.550
17. Iowa – 194.550
19. Stanford – 194.525
20. Arizona – 194.350
21. Michigan – 194.225
22. NC State – 194.075
23. Illinois – 193.700
24. Boise State – 193.525
25. Maryland – 193.075

Saturday Scores and Residual Thoughts

Follow here after the jump throughout the day for scoring updates on the Saturday meets.

But first, a few thoughts about yesterday, particularly the performances of Florida and UCLA.  It was a very 2011 day for these two teams, with Florida recording a tremendous score and knocking on the door of 198, and UCLA having a truly spectacular combustion for a devastating 194.600.

The UCLA performance was disappointingly predictable the moment we heard that Val would be putting some of the “depth” into the lineup for this meet.  Now, I use depth in quotes because based on the way these second-string gymnasts performed, they cannot be relied upon to be depth for this team.  This has become the classic UCLA conundrum, but one that we have seen them solve in the past.  If we get a press conference about this meet, I expect Val to give us a variation on the usual, “I’m not upset about the obvious things.  I’m not upset about the falls.  I’m upset because we didn’t warm up well and competed tight.”  This time, there is some truth to the assessment that the falls aren’t as relevant, but it’s because most of the major mistakes came from gymnasts who won’t find themselves in the lineup again for a while.  The much more troubling aspect of UCLA’s performance was the parade of 9.7s from top performers and the inability of the team to get the meet back on track after poor performances – to “hit refresh” as the team is fond of saying all the time.  Which begs the question, if you say something enough, does it lose all meaning?  They certainly didn’t hit refresh yesterday.

However, this meet was nothing new for UCLA because of the traditional commitment to try out different lineups throughout the season.  Val made specific mention that they needed to get Frattone and Baer into the beam lineup this week so they could get competitive routines under their belts.  No one is expecting either to compete against Stanford next week (unless there is injury, and perhaps Mattie was out of the lineup v. Washington more because of the ankle than because of rest, so we’ll watch that).  Let’s contrast that to Florida, where Rhonda Faehn has done a commendable thing in being willing to try new strategies and completely change the training schedule, which certainly seemed to influence the team’s scores in the first few weeks.  They finally arrived yesterday with something much closer to what we’re accustomed to seeing from Florida at home in January.  While most teams would be celebrating such a humongous score, Florida fans have seen it all before.  January 197s don’t win championships.

So here’s the question: have both of these teams fallen into old patterns?  I say this because, while Florida has attempted to address the peaking issue, they have not yet adequately addressed the depth issue.  While UCLA felt the need to get their backup routines into the lineup and eat a bad score in order to move forward with a stronger team, Florida put the same six gymnasts up on the balance beam (last year’s demon) as they have in every meet.  If this continues, how comfortable will Rhonda be making a change in April?  She didn’t feel comfortable taking out Mahlich last year.

I hope that we don’t see these patterns continue next week.  I hope that UCLA can find a way to be a successful team without being horrible for large stretches of the regular season, and I hope that Florida doesn’t completely rely on yesterday’s lineup for the rest of the year just because it was successful this weekend.  Florida needs to be willing to climb down to get up.  They need to go into the crevasse.

Saturday things:

Big scores on vault from Georgia to start the rotation.  Noel Couch goes 9.900, so that’s the kind of meet we’re looking at today.  Nice to see Lainie Fleming hit bars for LSU this week.

Kat Ding leads Georgia to 49.325 on the first rotation, but LSU has to count a poor routine on bars for 48.500.  They need an immediate recovery on their best event, the vault.

Oh Shayla – a fall on bars.  She’s been desperately trying to change the narrative this season.  This won’t help.  Georgia does manage a 49.325 on the back of Ding once again, so they are on solid 197 pace so far, but with floor still to come.  They don’t have Ding to lead them on the next two, and that’s when things get dicey.

Rheagan Courville continues to score well on vault, leading LSU to a 49.300 with her 9.950.  They would be right in this if not for the fall on bars.  In the last few meets, LSU has seemed a bit too much of a one-rotation team, though, so hitting the next two events will be crucial.

Halfway: Georgia 98.650, LSU 97.800

You know things are gong well for Georgia when Kat Ding hits beam.  Strong 9.850s to start for them.  Can Shayla come back after bars and hit beam?

Another hit routine from Davis – she’s been consistent for 9.8s today.  If they can get her scoring a bit higher on bars, she will really have arrived.  If Georgia can conquer floor finally, they’ll have a 197 meet on their hands.

Shayla hits beam for 9.925.  Playing it safe with the beam dismount appears to have solved her consistency problems on this event, though it’s still a bit troubling to me that a former elite of her talent level couldn’t handle (or fix problems with) a double full beam dismount.  A gainer full does not show off her skill set.

LSU has a good enough floor, anchored by Hall’s 9.9.  They go 48.975, counting Courville’s 9.675.

After 3: Georgia 148.000, LSU 146.775

Everyone is hitting in the 9.8s to start the final rotation, which is all Georgia needs.  Even just a 49 would be a victory on this event, but it looks as though they will easily exceed that.  They are hitting all over the place.  Even Nuccio and her rickety body were able to hit for 9.9.  I think they were feeling left out of the 197 party – meaning that only Alabama will be yet to get there from the top teams.  We’ll watch that next week.

Final: Georgia 197.250, LSU 195.750

Not an amazing score for LSU, but not a disaster either.  They’ll be disappointed by the low score on bars, because otherwise it would have been a strong performance.  They hit beam and floor for around 49, so they can work from there.  Jessie Jordan wins the AA with 39.250.

Georgia joins the 197 club, which is not too surprising, but it’s a big deal for them to get 5 solid floor routines.  They can build from this performance in terms of confidence (both in ability to hit routines and in lineup decisions – this is looking close to the right group).  Except, they will still want to get Davis into the AA and Cheek back from injury, which should increase their scoring potential somewhat.  Earls and Davis do appear to be finding their places on this team – a necessary evolution.

The challenge now, as it is for all the top teams, is figuring out how to bring this level of performance (we can’t necessarily expect the scores) on the road.  Next week at Utah will be a big deal for this team.

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Nebraska doesn’t mess around with starting their meets.  I like it.  Most teams would barely have started introductions by 15 minutes past the hour.  Last home meet they went 197.375.  Let’s see what today brings.

Good start for Nebraska putting up 49.300 on vault, anchored by Schleppenbach’s 9.900.  Giblin, whose 39.500 still has her as the top AAer in the rankings, is not the AA today.  Missouri is very 9.7 on bars for a 48.775.  Nice to see them in the top 25 this week.  They had a poor season last year after the graduation of Sarah Shire in 2010.

Penn State recorded a poor 48.525 on bars, featuring Musser’s surprisingly low 9.675.  No one reached the 9.8 mark.  They will have to pick up the scoring to stay top 10.  Oregon State, just below them in the rankings, scored 196.800 this week.

Missouri goes unexpectedly huge at the end of their vault lineup for 49.250, just .050 short of what home team Nebraska recorded.  Nebraska, however, does record a solid bar rotation for 49.125, able to drop the 9.675 from Skinner.  No one new in the Nebraska lineup yet, so it looks like they’re sticking with the eight competitive gymnasts from last week.  It still makes me nervous…

After 2: Nebraska 98.425, Missouri 98.025

For Penn State, they recovered a bit on vault (well, Merriam and Musser did), but they still unexpectedly trail Minnesota at the halfway point 97.550 to 97.525.

Uh oh, the beam bug bites again for Nebraska.  They had been doing so well this year…for two meets.  (Although, nice to see Busacker come in.  A 9th gymnast!)  They’ll be counting at least a 9.300 and a 9.475.

Update with final scores, Nebraska had a horrifying beam rotation (46.950…ACK!) and did their best UCLA impression to finish with 194.550 and lose to Missouri’s 195.725.

The other final: Penn State 195.475, Minnesota 195.150

Friday Continued – UCLA @ Washington

UCLA is about to begin at Washington, and we’ll keep an eye on the scores from Utah, Stanford, and Oregon State as the Pac-12 finishes us off on this busy Friday.

For Utah on beam, Lopez leads off well with 9.850.  McAllister follows with 9.725, and Lothrop goes 9.875.  They are going to have to go huge to keep up with Florida, but UCLA’s 197.575 looks within reach for them right now.

Looks like Peszek will be in the lineup on bars, perhaps she is just being rested on the leg events.  Frattone and EHH on bars for UCLA instead of MDLT and Larson.  Wong and Craddock will be on in exhibition.  No Whitcomb this week.  She didn’t look ready yet during her last exhibition, but she’s making progress.

Another big rotation score for Utah, 49.350 on beam.  They may be just short of some of the highest scores, but they can break their season high with a 49.325 on floor.

Pretty clean from Courtney on bars, a wonky handstand and an uncharacteristic step back on the dismount – she should be sticking that. (9.775)

Some pretty low Yfulls from Washington to start, both with hops back.

One of the better bar routines from Peszek, clean in handstand and good dismount.  The shoot to high bar is still not my favorite. (9.850)

Frattone now, her first competitive bar routine of the season, and came off on her jaeger.  This is what I was talking about with the danger of putting up a B-team.  Pressure for the team on bars for the first time this season.  Several form breaks after the fall and a terrible dismount with many steps back.  I hope she enjoyed the only time she’ll be in the lineup this year. (8.725 – sweet heavens)

A couple of solid Yhalfs from Washington, both with significant enough lunges forward.

Aisha Gerber has an error on her pak and has to improvise (with a big leg separation as well) and a major step on the dismount.  Bad news.  (9.475 – counts)

Zam takes an extra swing as well, pikes her body on the pak, and steps forward on the DLO dismount. This is a bad rotation for UCLA. (9.750)

Cline from Washington has to tuck her vault, so they will not want to count that.

Looks like Lichelle is in the lineup now for UCLA instead of EHH.  She has a huge error and has to take an extra swing.  Looks like we’ll have another inexcusable meet.  And it really is.  These are not acceptable mistakes being made here.  I’m seeing 9.325.  Disasterville.

EHH does a pretty solid exhibition with one iffy handstand and a little wonkiness on her double tuck dismount.

Utah, meanwhile is keeping up their high scoring pace so far on floor.  Where will they finish?

I’m having a lot of stream issues with UCLA/Washington.  We may just have to call it an evening.  I’ll probably check in later with final scores.  Enjoy the meets, and enjoy talking about Florida’s 197.775.

One last update with the final score: Washington 195.350, UCLA 194.600.

Val.  Will.  Be.  Furious.  Get ready.  It’ll be great.