Rhonda Faehn: ‘Not our best night’

The No. 3 Florida gymnastics team (6-1, 2-1 SEC) dropped its first meet of the season Friday night in the Coleman Coliseum in front of a massive crowd of 12,457. No. 6 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC), the defending national champs, earned nation’s second-highest total of the season with a 197.725 to defeat the Gators’ score of 196.90.

“It’s going to be a great learning experience for them,” said Florida coach Rhonda Faehn. “We walk away tonight with a really solid road score. We obviously have things we are going to work on when we get back home and that’s fine because we have nowhere to go but up.”

The Gators were on the uneven bars for their opening rotation, posting a 49.225. Sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto continues to make strides after an injury, winning the event for the second consecutive week. Caquatto posted a 9.90 to earn her eighth bar title of her career. Sophomore Alaina Johnson tied for second on the event with Crimson Tide’s Ashley Priess and Ashley Sledge at 9.875.

The Crimson Tide started strong on the vault for its opening rotation. ‘Bama earned a 49.60, the nation’s leading vault total. UA swept this event with sophomore Diandra Milliner scored a perfect 10 on the event, junior Marissa Gutierrez posted a 9.95 for second and senior All-American Geralen Stack-Eaton earned a 9.925.

The Gators were on the vault for their second rotation, posting a 49.25 due to not sticking their landing properly. Freshman Kytra Hunter led Florida on the event with a 9.90 and Johnson closely followed with a 9.875.

“It was definitely not our best night,” Faehn said. “There were areas where we were a little flat or a bit sluggish. We didn’t get some of the landings and the team knows that. They’re human and that’s normal after coming off such a high from last week.”

Florida was on the floor for the third rotation as senior Amy Ferguson started the Gators off with a 9.825 mark. Junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson led the Gators posting a 9.875 and Hunter earned a 9.85 as the Gators totaled for a 49.10 mark on the event.

The Gators finished strong going six-for-six on their final beam event and earning a 49.325 to register their second-highest beam total of the season. Dickerson earned a 9.90 score to share first on the event with three others- UA’s Milliner, sophomore Sarah DeMeo and senior Ashley Priess marking the 10th of her career. Junior All-American Marissa King finished the Gators off earning a 9.875 mark.

Faehn was pleased that despite entering the final round with lower scores than anticipated, her team persevered all the way through the final event and gave it their all.

“What I loved is the heart they showed on balance beam,” Faehn said. “I challenged them on their last event to show their heart and they did just that.”

The Crimson Tide also posted season-high scores on the uneven bars (49.250), balance beam (49.425) and floor exercise (49.450). Priess won her first all-around of the season earning a 39.550 while Milliner won the vault with a perfect 10.  Gutierrez took the floor exercise for the Tide with a 9.925.

Friday’s meet airs on the CST network at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7. The Gators return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to host their Sixth Annual Link to Pink Meet on Feb. 10. The Gators host No. 14 LSU at 7 p.m.

No. 3 Florida at No. 6 Alabama

Feb. 3, 2012 in Coleman Coliseum (12,457)

Team Vault Bars Beam Floor Total

Alabama 49.600 49.25 49.425 49.450 197.725

Florida 49.250 49.225 49.325 49.100 196.900

Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at lizxxbeth@gators.ufl.edu.