Alabama left no doubt as to whom the better team was against the five-time defending national champions Friday night. The Crimson Tide used the final two rotations to pull away from the Georgia Gym Dogs in front of 14,220 at Coleman Coliseum.
Holding the slimmest margin possible after two rotations, Alabama scored higher than a 49 on beam and floor, stretching the final margin to 196.275-195.5.
“I told the ladies it was going to come down to who fought the most,” Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. “I think our ladies just got stronger as the meet went on.”
Senior Ricki Lebegern earned SEC Gymnast of the Week honors by scoring a 39.35 to win the all around. Three of her four routines led the Tide off on an event.
“I can’t say enough about Ricki Lebegern,” Patterson said. “She set the tone. That balance beam and that floor exercise, her performance from Auburn was tremendously improved and to have that kind of leadoff person was tremendous for our team.”
After beginning the meet with a 49.25 on vault, Alabama posted a 9.275 and a 9.425 on its second and third bar routines, respectively. But Kayla Hoffman and Kassi Price regained momentum with 9.875s before Ashley Priess scored the meet’s highest score with a 9.925 to finish the rotation.
“I like to rise through the pressure, and I like that feeling,” Priess said. “Going in [to the bar routine], I just really tried to trust myself. I’ve done this a million times; just go out there and do the same thing.”
The Tide ran into another bump on the beam in the next rotation when Geralen Stack-Eaton fell, but three consecutive stuck routines allowed Alabama to discard the 9.325.
“It was that way last weekend at Auburn,” Patterson said. “We had to go five in a row last weekend. When you have that kind of camaraderie and when those kids trust each other, [it’s easier to get over a fall]. Everybody that made a mistake will learn from it, and we’ll get better.”
As Alabama was posting 49.025 on beam and a 49.075 on floor exercise, Georgia was struggling, uncharacteristically scoring a 48.875 on beam and a 48.475 on floor, allowing the No. 4 Tide to pull away from No. 10 Georgia.
“We know if we’re going to win the national championship, we have to get through Georgia,” Patterson said. “And Georgia knows if they want to win one, they’ve got to get through us.”
This week, Alabama (2-0) will host No. 7 Arkansas (1-1), a team coming off its first ever Super 6 appearance, but who dropped its first SEC meet to No. 4 Florida last week.
Arkansas defeated the Tide by a tenth of a point last year in Fayetteville, Ark., a loss that senior Kassi Price described as “one of the turning points of last season.”
The meet against the Razorbacks is scheduled to begin Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.