The No. 3 Florida gymnastics team (1-1, 0-1 SEC) dropped its 2013 Southeastern Conference season opener Friday at No. 8 LSU (2-0, 1-0 SEC) in front of a Pete Maravich Assembly Center crowd of 4,074. The Gators turned in the same total as last week, 196.575, but LSU outscored them with a 196.875 to take the first win over the Gators in the last 10 meetings. Friday’s meet is the start of nine consecutive dual meets for Florida versus teams ranked in the nation’s preseason top 25.
Friday’s meet will air tape-delayed on SUN Sports Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.
Going into the final rotation, the Gators held a 0.25 edge over the Tigers, but knew they needed a strong final rotation on balance beam to hold the lead as the Tigers were finishing on their top event. Last week in their season opener, the Tigers turned in the nation’s high event total of 49.525 on the floor exercise. Misses by freshman Bridget Sloan and senior All-American Marissa King forced Florida to count a fall toward its final beam total of 48.775. The Tigers didn’t go as big as last week on floor, posting a 49.325 Friday, but it gave them the final winning three-tenths margin.
The Gators last counted a fall in their beam total at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Kytra Hunter, making her first all-around appearance of the season, won that event title at 39.675. The total was just off her collegiate-best of 39.725 set when she claimed the 2012 NCAA all-around crown. For the evening, Hunter collected two other event titles. In her first vault performance of the season, Hunter used a team season-high 9.95 for the win. Hunter also is the defending NCAA vault champion and is the only Gator to win two NCAA event titles in a single season. She also matched her collegiate-best on the uneven bars at 9.90 for the second consecutive week to share that event crown with LSU’s Sarie Morrison.
Hunter quickly put off her individual performance, pointing to the team’s obvious learning opportunity from tonight’s performance.
“This has put a bad taste in our mouths and this is not the way we wanted to start our season,” Hunter said. “But it is a stepping stone and it needs to be a step that we learn from as we look toward the end of the season.”
“The team is definitely going to learn that no matter what is going on, we have to keep pushing. And no matter if we have a fall, bobble or anything, it is a little thing,” she continued. “We can fix it and it not the end of the world.”
Junior All-American Mackenzie Caquatto used a near flawless set to claim the balance beam title with a team-season high 9.95. Hunter was second on beam at 9.90.
The evening’s floor exercise crown went to LSU’s Lloiminica Hall at 9.95. Hunter was second at 9.925.
There is much to gain from this loss, Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn said
“Obviously tonight will be a very positive learning experience. Coming here, we knew that LSU is a talented team and against any team in the SEC, especially on the road, you really have to hit if you expect to walk away with a win. For us to finish up with two falls on beam – that isn’t going to get it done.
“There were some definite high points at this competition and at the same time, there were things that were eye-opening moments for quite a few of the athletes. They need to learn from this and take this as a step to go back into the gym and make a few adjustments here and there and just get better from it.
“There were some excellent things like Macko’s (Mackenzie Caquatto) beam which was incredible. And Kytra (Hunter) was incredible everywhere. Overall we made mistakes that I think were from holding back and that’s what bothers me. I would rather have them make mistakes by going too hard and being aggressive.”
Other Gators with top three finishes Friday included senior All-American Ashanée Dickerson, who shared second on vault at 9.90. Junior All-American Alaina Johnson and Sloan shared third on bars at 9.85.
Florida continues competition against Tiger teams, this time the No. 21 Missouri Tigers, Friday, Jan. 18. This will be the first time Missouri will compete in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as a SEC member. Meet time is set for 7 p.m. and the first 500 fans receive a fleece blanket compliments of Gatorade. Tickets for Friday’s meet are $4 for adults, while children 17 and under and UF students showing a Gator1 card are admitted free.
The Florida-Missouri meet will air tape-delayed on SUN Sports Jan. 27 at 10:30 a.m.
Courtesy UF Communications