Tide seeks redemption, in-state dominance

Tide+seeks+redemption%2C+in-state+dominance

Jason Galloway

Alabama gymnastics head coach Sarah Patterson has never been known to scold her team. They rarely give her a reason to.

Last week’s meet against top-ranked Florida, however, was an exception. After starting the meet with an abysmal 48.075, No. 6 Alabama limped to a lopsided 197.55-195.45 loss in Gainesville.

“Most of them were still in diapers the last time we lost by two points,” Patterson said. “That’s unacceptable.”

But if there was ever a good time for a wake-up call, this was it.

Alabama comes back to Coleman Coliseum Friday to pour out its frustrations on No. 21 Auburn and attempt to defend its streak of 100 straight victories over its arch rival.

“We are so motivated,” said Rachel Terry, a junior. “[The Florida meet] was no fun, but it was just a kick in the pants. As frustrating as it was and as bad as it was, we needed it. It’s gotten us going, and I can’t wait to see where it will take us this weekend.”

Patterson, who is in her 33rd year coaching the Tide, lost to Auburn in her first year coaching the team. She has gone 100-0 against the Tigers since. The unprecedented streak has ranged from blowouts to .025-margin nail-biters, and it’s not something the team takes lightly.

“We don’t really take into consideration how many years it takes to win 100 times in a row,” said sophomore Ashley Sledge. “We all just know you don’t want to be the class to lose it.”

Terry said, “[If the streak ended], it would be miserable in every aspect I can think of. It would be terrible. We don’t even see that as an option. We’re going to go in and dominate… especially coming off last week.”

Auburn is led by first-year head coach Jeff Graba, the team’s fifth coach since the streak began. Patterson, meanwhile, has led Alabama to four national championships and six SEC Championships in that time frame.

“You try not to place a lot of emphasis on it,” Patterson said. “The kids weren’t even born when the streak began. You only want your kids to compete the best they can that night. To put a new pressure on them doesn’t help anything.

“[But] is it something that means a lot and is important to me? Absolutely. It means a lot to every athlete that’s come through our program.”

The Tigers are ranked 23rd on bars and sixth on beam but are unranked in the Tide’s best two events – vault and floor – where Alabama is No. 2 and 3, respectively.

The Tide dropped to No. 7 in the overall rankings after its poor performance at Florida last week. After facing Auburn at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, Alabama will host its annual Pink Meet against Kentucky on Feb. 18 in Coleman Coliseum.

“This Friday night, we have a chance to redeem ourselves from last week and show the kind of team we can be,” Patterson said. “I would be shocked if we don’t come out and do a great job after the performances we’ve had this week and the attitude that we’ve had.”