Tide travels to Oklahoma for 1 vs 2 matchup

Jason Galloway

Tonight will finally settle it.

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oklahoma have been leapfrogging each other for the nation’s top spot for most of the season, and the two will meet in Norman, Okla., tonight at 7 p.m. for a colossal regular season matchup, putting to rest the subjective argument of who the best team in college gymnastics is.

“They’ve been a lot like us,” Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said of Oklahoma. “They’ve been good from the start of the season to the end of the season. I think the road to an NCAA Championship will somehow entail having to defeat the Sooners at some point in time.”

Alabama has not faced Oklahoma in Norman in the regular season since 1991, but competed there for NCAA Regionals in 2008. The two teams have been placed in the same regional the past three seasons, with both teams advancing to nationals all three years.

The Sooners are led by Hollie Vise, who competes on uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, ranking third, second and 25th in the country on those events respectively.

“I feel like they’ve got the people on their team now, one in particular, Hollie Vise, who has just matured over the program,” Patterson said. “Hollie was a great elite gymnast. I think it took a while for her to find herself in college gymnastics, and now she’s doing an awesome job.”

On the Crimson Tide’s side of the gym, however, are two of the nation’s top five all arounders in Morgan Dennis (No. 3) and Ashley Priess (No. 5).

“It’s not always about ranking,” Dennis said, “but to know that there’s two all arounders on the team that are that consistent and that strong week in and week out, that’s going to be really important in the long run for our team.”

Dennis said a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup like tonight’s always comes down to who can sustain a better mental focus.

“Mental consistency is going to play a big part this weekend,” Dennis said. “We all can do our skills physically in our sleep. The physical part of it is nothing. It all comes down to who wants it more, who’s willing to fight more and who’s just on that night.”

Patterson said the key to coming out on top tonight includes sticking five vaults, being aggressive on beam and improving on floor.

“I think it’s going to come down to execution,” she said. “We’re trying to focus on the things that are going to make a .025 difference, because in my experience, that’s the margin of what it takes to win championships.

“We’re heading in there with the mentality that we have something to prove, and we want to show them that we’re the best team in the country.”

Notes:

– Alabama senior Kassi Price, who suffered a knee injury against Arizona two weeks ago, is expected to compete on uneven bars and balance beam tonight, and will be held out on floor exercise, Patterson said Tuesday.