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    SEC Gymnastics Today: March 16

    Alabama Gymnastics Closes Out Regular Season with 197.625-194.075 Win Over UNC

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 4 Alabama gymnastics team closed out its regular-season with a 197.625-194.075 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels at home in front of 9,165 fans Friday night. It was Alabama’s third highest score of the season and its sixth 197-plus mark in its last seven meets.

    “I think tonight was a good balance,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “We did some things really well and we have some things that we can work on for the postseason. I thought that this was a really good step forward. We wanted to take tonight and help put ourselves in the best position we could be in for next week. I think mentally they probably feel really good about tonight.”

    The Crimson Tide was led by senior Ashley Priess, who closed out her Coleman Coliseum tenure with a career-best 39.625 to win the all-around while senior Geralen Stack-Eaton was second with a 39.450.  Prior to the meet Priess, Stack-Eaton and Rachel Terry were honored as part of the Senior Night celebration.

    “If you look at pictures from their freshmen year to their senior year, they were young girls and now their young women,” Patterson said. “They have come so far in so many areas. I don’t think there are too many classes that can say everybody in their class is an All-American, Scholastic All-American and they’ve won all these championships.”

    Sophomore Diandra Milliner won the vault while Priess and junior Ashley Sledge tied for top honors on the uneven bars. Sophomore Sarah DeMeo led the way on the beam and Stack-Eaton closed out the night by winning the floor exercise.

    While the Tide had a good night on the other three events, it was exceptional on the balance beam where it posted a 49.525, its highest score of the season and fourth highest all-time. In addition to DeMeo’s winning score of 9.95, three other UA gymnasts scored 9.9 or better. Freshman Kayla Williams, in her first beam routine in the Tide’s competitive beam lineup, scored a 9.9, which Stack-Eaton matched one routine later. Priess anchored the beam lineup with a 9.925.

    “All week we have been practicing our mental toughness and being fierce,” Priess said. “We have such an incredible beam team but we haven’t put all six together at the same time. I think we finally believe it and we’re working together to create an incredible performance.”

    Alabama scored a 49.475 on the vault to start the meet, led by Milliner’s 9.95 and Priess’ 9.925. On the uneven bars, Priess and Sledge scored 9.9s, pacing the Tide to a 49.275 team score.

    Despite its last two home meets coming at the start and end of spring break, Alabama averaged 12,827 fans per meet this season, the second highest average in program history and the third highest in any women’s sport this year.

    Alabama gets the postseason started Saturday, March 24 at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Duluth, Ga.



    Pisani Wins Four Titles in Loss at Missouri
               
    COLUMBIA, Mo. – Senior All-American Jaime Pisani recorded two 9.95s and won four individual titles, and No. 9 Arkansas rallied from an early deficit, but No. 16 Missouri finished strong on floor for a 196.10-195.45 gymnastics win on Friday.
               
    Pisani won vault, beam, floor and the all-around while senior teammate Mariah Howdeshell won bars to give the Razorbacks a sweep of all five individual titles. Pisani had 9.95s on vault and floor, matching the second-best scores in school history on both events. She also had a 9.90 on beam, a 9.80 on bars and a 39.60 in the all-around. Howdeshell won bars with a 9.875.
               
    “We had some good individual performances and they did a great job, but at the end of the day it’s a team sport,” co-head coach Mark Cook said. “We need to get back and focus on getting better.”
               
    After trailing through the first and second rotations, Arkansas took the lead with a big effort on floor, but Missouri had a big floor score of its own to regain the lead and win the meet in the final rotation.
               
    In the first rotation, Arkansas had two falls on bars and was forced to count one for a 48.475. Senior Mariah Howdeshell led with a 9.875. Freshman Sammy Kolbas had a season-best 9.825. Pisani had a 9.80, junior All-American Amy Borsellino a 9.775 and freshman Stephani Canizaro a 9.20.
               
    Missouri led off with a 49.15 on vault. Mary Burke paced the Tigers with a 9.90.
               
    “We had two falls on bars and you can’t do that,” Cook said. “On vault, we did well and we did really well on floor. We went to beam and had a chance to possibly win the meet, and we had two falls. We need to work on being mentally tougher.”
               
    In the second rotation, Arkansas matched Missouri’s 49.15 on vault, led by Pisani’s 9.95. Howdeshell had a season-high 9.85, sophomore Scarlett Williams a 9.825, Borsellino a 9.80 and sophomore Bailee Zumwalde a 9.725.
               
    Missouri had a 49.05 on bars, led by Burke’s 9.85.
               
    Through two events, Missouri led 98.20-97.625.
               
    The Razorbacks responded with a 49.325 on floor to take the lead. Missouri had to count a fall on beam and scored a 48.50.
               
    Through three events, Arkansas led 146.95-146.70.
               
    Pisani led the way with her second 9.95 of the night, another score that matches the second-best in school history. Borsellino had a career-high 9.90, Zumwalde a career high-tying 9.85, Canizaro a season-high 9.85 and Kolbas a season-high 9.775.
               
    Missouri was led on beam by Burke’s 9.825.
               
    In the final rotation, Missouri closed with a 49.40 on floor to clinch the win. Arkansas had a 48.50 on beam.
               
    The Razorbacks were led by Pisani’s 9.90. Williams had a 9.825, Howdeshell a 9.80, sophomore Shelby Salmon a 9.75 and Borsellino a 9.225.
               
    Missouri got a 9.925 on floor from Rachel Updike.
               
    Arkansas now turns its attention to the post-season and next week’s Southeastern Conference Championship, which is Saturday at Duluth, Ga.
               
    Arkansas is hosting the NCAA South Central Regional on April 7 at 4 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.



    No. 10 LSU Matches Season High in Victory Against West Virginia

    BATON ROUGE, La. – The 10th-ranked LSU gymnastics team equaled its season high in a 196.850-194.900 victory against West Virginia in the home finale Friday night in the Maravich Center.

    Entering the final rotation needing a 49.325 on floor to match the season high, the Tigers delivered right on the mark, including a season-high tying 9.975 from Lloimincia Hall to end the meet.

    LSU (7-8) picked up the win in front of 2,876 fans, and the Tigers boosted the team’s regional qualifying score (RQS) from a 196.440 to a 196.550.

    “It’s all about the team score and building to the end of the season, and tonight we put together a solid meet and great score,” head coach D-D Breaux said. “If we can get some momentum at the SEC Championship and hit our routines with confidence, then this team is going to be very successful down the stretch.”

    After the meet the team honored its lone senior Ashley Lee, who wrapped up her home career with a solid 9.85 on vault and a 9.80 on floor.

    “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls and coaches to spend these four years with,” Lee said. “It was a lot of fun. It is sad now that it’s over, but it was a good night.”

    LSU swept the individual titles against the Mountaineers as Rheagan Courville won vault with a 9.925 and the all-around with a season-high tying 39.500, Sarie Morrison captured bars with her third-straight 9.90, Randi Lau tallied her first career beam title with a 9.85 and Hall won floor with her 9.975.

    Courville is up to 17 individual titles this season to lead the team, and Hall is second with nine wins.

    West Virginia (14-5) was paced by Kaylyn Millick who scored a 39.100 in the all-around and 9.80’s on beam and floor. Alaska Richardson posted the highest score of the meet for the Mountaineers with a 9.85 on floor.

    LSU opened the meet with a 49.200 on vault, counting scores of 9.925 by Courville, 9.85’s from Hall and Lee, a 9.80 from Maliah Mathis and a 9.775 by Jessie Jordan.

    The Tigers tied the season high on bars with a 49.225, led by Morrison’s 9.90, Courville’s 9.875, Lau and Hall’s 9.825’s and a 9.80 from Jordan.

    Lau’s season-high tying 9.85 on beam led the way as LSU finished with a 49.100. Shelby Prunty and Kaleigh Dickson tied their season highs with 9.825’s, and Hall and Courville tallied 9.80’s.

    LSU wrapped up the meet with the best team score of the night with a 49.325 on floor. Hall tied the nation’s top score for the second time this season with her 9.975, and Courville was second with a 9.90. Mathis posted a 9.85, and Dickson, Lee and Jordan recorded matching 9.80’s.

    LSU will compete at the SEC Championship in Duluth, Ga., at 3 p.m. CT on March 24. The Tigers will take on No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 14 Auburn and No. 23 Kentucky.



    No. 1 Florida Gymnastics uses nation’s second-highest total to defeat No. 7 Utah

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 1 Florida gymnastics team (11-1, 5-1 SEC) used the nation’s second-highest total of 2012 to finish its regular-season schedule with a win versus No. 7 Utah (7-3, 3-1 Pac 12) Friday evening in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 5,762. The Gators posted a 197.90, which also stands as the fourth-highest in school history, and the Utes finished with a 196.475.

    Florida’s score is second only this season to the 198.05 turned in by UCLA on Feb. 26.

    The all-around performances Friday of three Gator All-Americans rank among the nation’s best of the season. Sophomore Alaina Johnson equaled her collegiate-best of 39.675 to take her second win of the season. Also turning in a collegiate-best was junior Marissa King, who was second 39.65. Fellow junior Ashanée Dickerson was third with her season-best total of 39.625.

    Johnson’s total matches the nation’s third-highest of the season, while King’s checks in at the No. 6 spot and Dickerson’s holds the No. 7 position. It was the first time in Florida history that three Gator gymnasts posted all-around totals of 39.625 or above in the same meet.

    The win was the fifth of Johnson’s Gator career. Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn likes the variety shown by the team’s all-arounders.

    “It just shows Alaina is an absolutely beautiful gymnast. On any given day, she can challenge to win any title on any event for any meet. She performs with such great execution and her lines and overall appearance is really pleasing to the eye. That is an advantage for her,” Faehn said. “Marissa, Kytra (Hunter) and Ashanée are powerful and dynamic, while Alaina is more of the finesse and the grace. It’s a really nice balance. On any given day, any one of those athletes can really challenge for the win, but it was Alaina’s night tonight.”

    Big marks on each event led to the Gators taking at least a share of every apparatus title Friday. The depth of this team was shown as Gators paired up to share three of the event titles and all were won with marks of 9.90 or higher.

    Johnson shared her fourth vault title of the season with Utah’s Kailah Delaney and Georgia Dabritz at 9.90. Johnson and Dickerson both posted uneven bars marks of 9.95 to tie for that event title. The mark was a collegiate-best for Dickerson and equals Johnson’s season-best. It was the 10th bars win for Johnson in her career and the fourth for Dickerson.

    Johnson and King shared the balance beam title at 9.925. The mark equals Johnson’s collegiate-best and the score gives King her seventh win on the event this season. Six of King’s 10 beam performances in 2012 have yielded marks of 9.925 or above.

    Florida matched the sixth-highest floor total in school history of 49.60 to finish the meet. Florida’s final four floor performers – Johnson, Dickerson, King and Kytra Hunter – all turned in marks of 9.90 or above. Both King and Hunter opened their routines with double-layouts and shared the floor win at 9.95. Dickerson was third at 9.925.

    The Gators started the meet slow on vault, but Faehn liked how the Gators didn’t let that event impact their later performances. But vault landings will be something the team will focus on in its preparations for the March 24 Southeastern Conference Championships.

    “Starting out on vault, I wasn’t pleased because we didn’t stick one landing, so that made me upset. That being said, they didn’t carry it over to bars and just attacked the landings there, and the same goes for beam and floor. We finally really put it all together on the floor,” she said. “We made improvements, but if it was the week off that we had where we hadn’t really focused on landings, that showed tonight. That’s something positive for us to work on heading into SECs, and something to get better on.”

    Friday was Senior Night and the careers of the Gators’ Nicole Ellis, Amy Ferguson and Elizabeth Mahlich, along with student coach Kailey Tissue, were celebrated in a post-meet ceremony. Performing in front of the O’Connell Center fans for a final time was a moment Ellis and Ferguson took in.

    “I think for the first time I really paid attention to what was going on around me because usually you’re so nervous. You’re so focused on what you’re doing that you don’t even hear the crowd or people cheering,” Ferguson said. “I think this time I really just stood there and took it all in. I really soaked in every minute of it. It’s something that I will never forget.”

    Ellis, who held her stuck bars dismount a bit longer than normal, echoed Ferguson’s sentiments.

    “I was telling myself to soak it up because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – being a college athlete – and it being the last meet, I just wanted to take everything in and enjoy every last second of it,” Ellis said.

    King said the seniors will be missed next season.

    “They are such a great tribute to the team. I know coming in as a freshman I didn’t know very much about college and they were the ones helping me get through that,” King said. “They bring such positivity to the team. Every little aspect they do is what makes our team today and gets us our results this season. I’m really going to miss having them there in the gym with us every day.”

    Now the Gators begin the championship portion of their season. Florida will contend for the league title at the March 24 SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga.



    No. 14 Gymnastics Closes Out Regular Season with Win Over BYU

    AUBURN – No. 14 Auburn gymnastics defeated the BYU Cougars, 195.950-192.575, Friday night in the Auburn Arena in the final regular season meet of the season.

    “It was a good effort and the girls worked hard,” Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said. I’m not happy about how the meet went. I don’t think we did a very good job tonight. We looked a bit sloppy. We just didn’t look sharp tonight. Obviously, you can go through the list, losing Kylie for all but two events. You take a leader out and put some other in, and we didn’t look good. We didn’t look great, we just looked alright.”

    Senior Kylie Shields competed in just two events as the staff attempted to keep her fresh for next week’s SEC meet.

    Auburn led off the evening on vault, posting a solid score of 48.925. Freshman Bri Guy led the scoring with a 9.850, followed by junior Toi Garcia with a 9.825. Senior Allyson Sandusky and junior Petrina Yokay each posted scores of 9.775, while Shields added a 9.700.

    BYU opened with a rough start on bars, as it had to count two falls in the event. The Cougars finished the first rotation at 47.500.

    As the Tigers moved to bars, Sandusky posted a 9.900 and Guy added a career high 9.850 to help Auburn to a 49.200 in the event. Sophomore Abbey Habicht and freshman Megan Walker each earned scores of 9.825, and Yokay posted a 9.800.

    The Cougars recovered on vault and earned a solid 48.550, but Auburn kept the lead by more than two points going into the second half of the meet.

    Auburn continued a strong showing on beam in the third rotation, posting a 48.850. Yokay tied her season and career high with a 9.850, while Habicht and Walker each posted scores of 9.825. The mark set a new career high for Walker. Sandusky earned a 9.750, while Kadous rounded out the group with a career high 9.600.

    The Tigers kept the lead, while BYU struggled on floor with a 47.675.

    In the final rotation of the evening, the Tigers finished strong with a 48.975 on floor. Garcia tied her season high for the sixth time this year with a 9.875, while Webster posted a 9.825. Kadous and Guy each added scores of 9.775 and Yokay finished with a 9.725 in only her third floor appearance of the season.

    “I like Brittany’s floor,” Graba said. “On her vault she didn’t score well, because you took a big step, but we’ve been trying to vault bigger and quit worrying about toning it down. I thought Brittany Webster did probably the best job of doing what we are asking her to do.”

    BYU finished with its highest event score of the evening, earning a 48.850 on beam.

    The Tigers took home titles in three of the four events, as well as the all-around. Guy finished first on vault, Sandusky on bars and Garcia on floor, while Yokay took home the all-around title in her second all-around performance of the season with a 39.150.

    It was also Senior Night, as the Tigers recognized Sandusky, Shields, Justine Foster, Kareen Kaveh, Laura Lane, Kendall Swartz and Leah Vining for their achievements and contributions to the team throughout their time at Auburn.

    “We are just so appreciative of all these seniors have meant to this program,” Graba said. “They have been huge contributors in so many ways throughout their careers and to cap things this season they have been outstanding role models for our large freshman class. We really can’t thank them enough and I look forward to seeing them compete over the remainder of the season.”

    Auburn is in action next on March 24 at the 2012 SEC Gymnastics Championships in Duluth, Ga.