The Crimson White

Alabama gymnastics advances to Super Six, sits one night away from national championship

Jason Galloway

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CLEVELAND | The hard part is out of the way.

At least, that’s how Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson and gymnast Kayla Hoffman put it after advancing to Saturday’s Super Six and finishing with the best score in the national semifinals on Friday night at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland.

“Tonight is the hardest night,” Patterson said. “To advance, there’s so much individual pressure, team pressure. There’s just so much hanging over everyone’s head.”

Alabama had an intense amount of pressure hanging over its head on the night’s fifth rotation when Becca Alexin took a hard fall on the uneven bars. One more mistake in the next four routines could have cost the Tide its season.

However, the two freshmen that followed Alexin, Kim Jacob and Sarah DeMeo, scored a 9.825 and 9.9, respectively, and veterans Geralen Stack-Eaton and Kayla Hoffman finished off the event with a 9.9 and a 9.875 to fight off the scare.

“All of us just took a deep breath, and we knew that we were going to have each other’s backs,” Hoffman said. “That’s why it’s a team. It was a great team effort, and we were very excited to come back from that.”

Patterson said, “I’m excited that our freshmen didn’t act like freshmen. They acted like the veterans they’ve been all season long.”

Before bars, Alabama had started the night off strong, posting a 49.3 on floor and a 49.45 on vault after starting the night on a bye. By the time the Tide saved itself on bars, it had a significant lead on the rest of the competition.

“[Starting on a bye] gave us a chance to get ready, get warm,” Hoffman said. “It was nice to end on the floor and have the last say.”

With the mentality of just wanting to hit its routines, Alabama posted its worst score of the night on beam (48.95), but it was enough to finish with the top overall score of the semifinals, a 197.050.

Nebraska and Utah advanced with the Tide from the evening session. Florida, who was No. 1 in the nation for the majority of this season, could not recover from two falls on its first event and finished .075 behind Utah for fourth place.

Another powerhouse in Georgia fell into a tie for fourth with Arkansas in the morning session and did not advance to the Super Six for the second straight season after winning five straight national championships from 2005-09. Oklahoma, Michigan and defending champion UCLA were the morning session top three that will join Alabama, Nebraska and Utah in the Super Six Saturday night.

“If you’ve got someone that’s capable of scoring a 9.95, you need that [during the Super Six],” Patterson said. “Nobody can afford to make a mistake, because out of those six teams, there’s going to be five that will jump in there and go 24 for 24.”

Alabama racked up many first-team All-American honors Friday night, including Kayla Hoffman (vault, beam, all-around), Geralen Stack-Eaton (vault, bars, floor, all-around), Marissa Gutierrez (vault), Ashley Sledge (vault), Sarah DeMeo (bars) and Kim Jacob (beam, all-around). Hoffman, Stack-Eaton and Jacob finished one, two, three in the all-around of the evening session.

Saturday’s Super Six will begin at 4 p.m. est time in the Wolstein Center.

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Alabama gymnastics advances to Super Six, sits one night away from national championship