Best Posts in Thread: Gymnastics: Road to Nationals Begins!
The Gators start their quest for another Natty this weekend in Athens. The regionals start today with the play-in matches, followed by two quad meets on Friday and a regional final quad meet on Saturday with the top two teams from that session advancing to Nationals. Playtime is over, as they say because an off night now means you are done for the season. While Florida is entering the regional as the #1 overall seed, they are also entering on a slump with the implosion at the SEC tourney and All-world Trinity Thomas injured for over a month now. The Athens regional is probably the toughest regional with Minnesota, Denver, and the always home-cooked Georgia squad. All the other top seeds have to deal with maybe one or two squads that have the ability to score competitively with them. UF should have no problem with the Friday Semifinal (7pm ESPN3) but the Saturday final (7pm ESPN3) will see them matched up most likely with Minnesota and/or Denver/Georgia. UF could not afford an off meet and expect to advance. The biggest questions are 1. Is Trinity Thomas back on all 4 events and fully recovered and 2. Is Payton Richards mentally there after having a disaster SEC championship with 3 falls including landing on her rear on a Y1.5 vault. 3. Is Alyssa Baumann up to the task on bars? After making a feel good story nailing her first competition routine in 4 years on bars, the last 3 times have been falls. While she did have a huge 9.9+ score on that one hit, UF cannot afford the lost momentum and added pressure of having a fall on a rotation.
Not sure how Rowland is going to approach Friday, as she does have the luxury of playing with line-ups since it is about as much of a guarantee that UF will advance. Does she keep things as is to let them work it out? Does she give Trinity another day of rest? Does she change out Richards and Baumann to see if someone performs up to task? Hopefully the SEC champ was an aberration and UF coasts through to nationals, which should happen if historical scores are held. Otherwise it would be a huge disappointment and Rowland would be squarely on the hot-seat. Go Gators!!
Gators move through to nationals! On one hand some questionable coaching, on the other hand the team showed some grit and determination. The questionable coaching is how they did not have the girls mentally prepared to go last night. Nya Reed having a massive mental block on vault at this level is almost unacceptable. She was not able to even vault because she mentally broke down and could not run down the runway, leaving UF with only 5 vaulters and a low first rotation. And then we get to Payton Richards on beam, who has another mental block and forgets to do her acro sequence on beam resulting in a low 9.5 score, again putting the team in questionable territory.
They showed grit and determination heading to the final rotation when SJS tore her Achilles on warm up and then her back up injured her ankle on warm up too leaving Payton Richards to go in with no warm up. While she still only got a 9.65 with an out of bounds, it was a solid routine.
Now on to prime-time Nationals! Trinity Thomas should return to the all-around which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win it all. In the meantime get some psych people to work on the team, because something mentally is not clicking, maybe it was the added pressure of not having Trinity's 9.95's available? Either way they need to lock in and bring it, because the other squads are gunning for UF. Two weeks! on ABC, full ESPN coverage! Go Gators!
Gators did what they needed to do last night. Definitely washed the stink of the SEC Championships off. Pulling Payton off of floor and vault seemed to work, although still wish they could get that Yurchenkio 1.5 from Richards instead of the full from Baumann, but a reasonably landed full is still better than a bad 1.5 Rowland also took Baumann off bars and replaced with the freshman Gallentine who has been up and down all season, fortunately up last night and hopefully up tonight.
If UF scores another 197.95 tonight, we will be comfortably heading to nationals. But the pressure amps up tonight, two other squads, Denver and Minnesota definitely have the ability to keep up with the Gators if they are flat. UF starts on vault so will get the worst event out of the way. Depending on how well they do the first rotation, we will have a good idea of the fight they may or may not have the rest of the night. I expect them to be in 3rd place after 1 st rotation, just have to see how big of a gap between the other two.