In a mirror image of last year’s rivalry night, Florida beat Georgia in Stegeman Coliseum and made it look easy. The scoring was odd in places, but overall, this meet highlighted Florida’s strengths and weaknesses pretty obviously and showed why the Gators have separated themselves from the rest of the SEC so starkly this season.
As the away team, Florida started out on bars. The team started out a little slow, with some leg separation and landing errors from the first two routines, but it was like Amelia Hundley flipped a switch when she stuck her dismount. All three routines following her were spot on: Megan Skaggs and Savannah Schoenherr both nailed their handstands and had huge amplitude, though the landings were still missing, and Trinity Thomas put together a huge routine that earned a 9.975. Meanwhile, Georgia put up a variety of vaults that were almost all missing their landings. Rachael Lukacs had the Dogs’ only stuck vault, but it was a doozy, earning her an enormous 9.925. That brought Georgia’s total up to 49.275, just half a tenth behind Florida’s 49.325.
The second rotation is where the Gators really began to shine. All their hard work on vault has really paid off, with two sticks and several others with just small steps. Alyssa Baumann and Payton Richards did have some underrotation problems but kept the visible errors small, while Thomas put up what may have been the best vault of her college career, sticking her Y1.5. Meanwhile, Georgia had trouble on bars, only breaking 9.8 on two of its six routines. Handstands and leg separations gave the Gymdogs trouble, and only Megan Roberts was able to find her landing. Georgia has struggled to fill out a bars lineup this season as it’s dealt with injury after injury, first to team leader Rachel Dickson and then to freshman Amanda Cashman. Georgia has fully exhausted its currently available depth, while Florida has gone virtually injury-free this year, allowing the Gators to explore their options and choose the best six. That depth is one of the key factors giving Florida the edge this season over so many opponents.
Floor has also been a showpiece for Florida throughout this season, lighting up crowds at home and away arenas alike. Yes, there were some missteps this week, including Nya Reed’s out-of-bounds penalty, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected as she returns from illness. But four of the six in the Gators’ lineup this week scored 9.875 or better, with Thomas and Baumann capping off the lineup with 9.95 and 9.9, respectively. While the Gators did their thing on floor, the Gymdogs struggled on beam with a fall and two more routines under 9.85. Staying calm under pressure is another way the Gators have set themselves apart this season – every time there’s a miss, the rest of the rotation steps it up and covers for them. Many teams, including Georgia, have struggled to do that, particularly on beam.
The final rotation brought Florida to beam and Georgia to floor. Florida started off with a strong score from Richards, but Hundley had a few bobbles after her for just a 9.775 in her return to the beam lineup after a few weeks out. However, a great reset by Baumann earned a huge 9.975, beating sister Rachel on all three events they both competed. From then on, the beam team just kept pushing forward, culminating in a pair of 9.95s from Thomas and Leah Clapper. Georgia had landing error after landing error, with last passes coming up short and first passes being overpowered on almost every routine. Sabrina Vega in the anchor slot was, of course, a highlight for them, scoring a 9.9, but one high score was not going to save Georgia’s night.
When all was said and done, Florida totaled a massive 197.8, which should give its NQS a big boost. This meet is yet another feather in the Gators’ collective cap, further separating them from the pack. There are things to work on still, especially if they’re going to have a prayer of defeating Oklahoma come April, but if all goes according to plan, this was the team’s last major hurdle before postseason. They’ll go into SECs undefeated with some massive momentum, so prepare for the Gators to do even greater things.