Tide looks to end road woes

Tide+looks+to+end+road+woes

Jason Galloway

Over the last two weeks, the Alabama gymnastics team has proven it can post some of the nation’s top scores.

Now the Crimson Tide will try to show that going on the road will not change that.

After posting two straight scores higher than 197 in Coleman Coliseum, No. 5 Alabama travels to Athens, Ga., to take on No. 4 Georgia in a top-five rivalry matchup.

“We’ve done it in this environment of 14 or 15,000 people,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “Now we have to go do it in that environment. That’s the challenge. We have to step out of our comfort zone. We’ve got to start on bars and make a statement. To me, that’s the key for the night.”

Starting on bars also proved to be the key for the Tide’s last road game against No. 1 Florida, but Alabama does not want to repeat the result. Three Alabama routines received major deductions on bars against the Gators, and the Tide had no chance of catching up after starting with a 48.075. The team also posted a 47.625 on bars at Arkansas earlier in the season.

Although bars – the first event for every road team – has given the Tide trouble this season, junior Geralen Stack-Eaton said Alabama is not trying to harp on past meets.

“We don’t try to think too much on the negatives as to what we’ve done in the past,” said Stack-Eaton, who scored a career-high 39.675 in the all around last week against Kentucky. “We try not to think about what we did at Florida. We think about what’s ahead.”

What’s ahead is a team in Georgia that has won five of the last six national championships and has emerged as Alabama’s most intense rival.

Legendary coach Suzanne Yoculan retired after the 2009 season when the Bulldogs were on a streak of five straight titles. Under first-year head coach Jay Clark last season, Georgia failed to make the Super Six in a rebuilding year. This season, however, Georgia is back to being a top-five team.

“When they ran that five straight championships, I think they had an advantage over a lot of people,” Patterson said. “Now I think they’re just like all the other programs, trying to be at the very top.”

Yoculan will be calling the game for ESPNU this weekend. Patterson said Yoculan was not allowed to call Georgia meets last year, being only one year removed from coaching the Bulldogs.

“It’ll be interesting,” Stack-Eaton said. “She’s been around the gymnastics world. I think she’ll be fair in giving compliments when needed. I don’t think she’ll be biased.”

The Georgia meet is always one of the biggest, if not the biggest, meet of the season for Alabama. With the Tide’s recent struggles on the road, a win over the Bulldogs Friday night would not only be an encouraging victory over one of the top programs in the country, but it would give Alabama confidence just three weeks before the postseason begins.

Gymnastics rankings will be determined by Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) after this weekend. This formula takes a team’s top three road scores, its next three highest scores (home or away), and then drops the highest of those six scores. The average of the other five is a team’s RQS.

Because Alabama has posted some sub-par scores on the road this season, putting up a good score against the Bulldogs this week is imperative to maintaining a top-five ranking.

“We would all like to win, but the point right now is competing with ourselves,” junior Rachel Terry said. “We’ve had a couple away scores we would like to get rid of, so now it’s just about getting the best score we can.”

Friday’s meet will begin at 6:30 CT in Athens, Ga. Fans can follow the meet online at gymtide.com or on the radio on 90.7 The Capstone.