After a mixed bag of a meet in Athens, the Gators returned home with another W in the books and hungry for more. Tonight, they face the Gymbacks of rising star Arkansas, coached by Olympians Jordyn Wieber and Chris Brooks, as both teams celebrate those fighting against breast cancer and give back to Play for PINK, through Skaggs’s Tiny Bow Project, and the Reynolds Cancer Support House, through Arkansas’s The GiveBack initiative.
Arkansas is a team on the rise, one of several evidencing the increase in parity both in the SEC and the NCAA at large. While their ceiling is significantly lower than Florida’s, the Gators did just lose two athletes in a single meet due to injury, with both Ellie Lazzari and Halley Taylor rupturing their Achilles’ tendons last week, so it’s possible that a rattled Florida could fall to a confident Arkansas. Look for strong routines from Gymbacks Kennedy Hambrick, who can give any Gator a run for her money in the all-around, and Maggie O’Hara, who has the technique and the confidence to earn a 10.0 on bars if she can put it all together in a single routine.
However, don’t expect the Gators to be all that rattled. As we’ve said throughout preseason and season so far, the depth this team has is almost unprecedented. It can absorb the loss of Lazzari and Taylor. Will it hurt? Of course. Lazzari was the team’s third-best all-arounder last season after Trinity Thomas and Skaggs; replacing 9.9+ routines on all four events is no easy feat. But this team is capable. Expect to see Richards rotating in more frequently, Blakely likely in all four, and Thomas possibly back in AA sooner than planned. We might even see freshman Riley McCusker on beam if we’re lucky! Expect the Gators to be eager for another win, but to continue pacing themselves steadily toward postseason.
It all starts at 8:15pm ET tonight on SEC Network, but if you can’t watch for any reason, we’ll be here with the play by play, with minute by minute updates for you on all that happens.
I’m going to apologize ahead of time for being a little bit behind, as I’m watching on Sling this week, but I will have everything for you guys!
8:35pm: Edwards, VT: Yfull, big air but opened a little too late, landed a little forward, chest down, bounce in place.
Scalzo, UB: Jaeger to overshoot, great amplitude on those. A little shy on last handstand. DLO, little step forward.
8:37pm: Skaggs, VT: Yfull, nice in the air, little teeny slide of one foot. What a great vault!
Gianfagna, UB: Tkachev, nice, goes to the low bar and brushes her feet? That’ll be a significant deduction. Full in dismount, hop forward.
8:39pm: Schoenherr, VT: Y1.5, STUCK! I would like to see another angle please! Soft knees in the air, but YES her feet, did not move, she held that in place as long as she could to show that off.
L Smith, UB: Maloney to bail, great handstand there. Nice last handstand too! DLO is a little whippy, little slide back on the landing.
8:41pm: Reed, VT: Y1.5, looked like a little adjustment on the landing, but what distance she gets!! You love to see it.
Hambrick, UB: Gorgeous high piked Jaeger to immediate overshoot, I dislike that skill but she did it fine. Short on the final handstand, full in dismount and stepped out of the landing really quickly, I don’t buy that stick at all.
8:43pm: Wong, VT: Podkopayeva, better power and more precise in shape than last week but it could still be better. Landed it more upright, but slide on the landing.
Shaffer, UB: Maloney to bail, DEAD on on that handstand. DLO, comes in short and has to lunge forward.
8:45pm: Thomas, VT: HUGE Y1.5, little shuffle back, but her body was so clean in the air, that was gorgeous.
O’Hara, UB: Overdoes it on the first handstand and ends up having to come down. Ooh, that’s a bummer. She remounts and has a great routine afterward, but it’s too late unfortunately. That’s not how they wanted to start this meet.
AFTER ONE: UF 49.55, ARK 48.775
Thomas’s score was inflated, she did not stick and one judge gave her a 10, but regardless of scores, I would call 2/3 of this vault lineup postseason-ready. Thomas and Reed have found consistency they’ve rarely had before, Schoenherr is finding her footing again post-injury, and Skaggs’s full is just gold. Those other two slots will be up in the air for a little bit longer, I think, until Wong can find a more consistent shape and landing or Blakely can slot back in.
8:55pm: Pennese, VT: Yfull, a little soft knees, little hop back.
Blakely, UB: Solid releases between the bars. Double front, little step forward. A solid start!
8:57pm: Smith, VT: Yfull, nice height, lovely form, little slide back.
Skaggs, UB: Tkachev to immediate pak salto, little leg sep but some of that is just her knee structure. DLO stuck! Yes ma’am!
8:58pm: Shaffer, VT: Yhalf, a little off to the side but sooo straight in the air, little hop.
McCusker, UB: Maloney to pak, legs glued together. Great handstand work on the low bar. van Leeuwen is good. Good handstand work on the high bar as well. Just a double tuck dismount this week and she sticks it!! Good for her!
9:00pm: Elswick, VT: Yfull, big air but comes in short, has to step forward and catch herself.
Schoenherr, UB: PIked Jaeger is just gorgeous. Bail is solid, a little flexed feet but keeps her legs glued together. Double front half is STUCK! Does this girl have glue on her feet tonight or something?? That’s 2/2 for her!
9:02pm: Sedlacek, VT: Y1.5, a little deep on the landing and has to hop back. Some knees in the slow mo but legs just pasted together, hard to see the error in real time.
Thomas, UB: Good opening handstand. Maloney to pak, lovely form through both. Good low bar handstands. van Leeuwen looked nice. DLO kinda whipped around, little teeny slide it looked like.
9:04pm: Hambrick, VT: Y1.5, little off to the side, little cross step behind herself, ooh she was so close to a stick.
Wong, UB: Great first handstand. Maloney to pak, nicely done. Up to the high bar. DLO and holds the stick! So nice.
IT’S A PERFECT TEN WHAT!!! What a huge night for the freshman!
AFTER TWO: UF 99.275, ARK 97.98
9:13pm: Skaggs, BB: Wolf turn, solid. Switch to split, gorgeous positions in the air. Back handspring layout stepout (bhs loso), definitely crooked on that but she locked her arms in and said NO, wow. Front aerial, much better. Cat leap switch side, both fine. Side aerial back full, tried to stick it but I don’t quite buy it.
9:16pm: Hickey, FX: Double pike to start, good start. She’s got like some video game sound effects in here and I kinda love it?? 1.5 to front lay, a little shaky on the landing but kept her feet under her. Dance series looked good. Double tuck to finish, she looked a little out of gas but she finished fine. A good start for Arkansas!
9:18pm: Blakely, BB: Front aerial to bhs, steady. Switch to switch half, dead on. Side somi, little lean forward there but she keeps going. Sider aerial back full stuck! Good for her. Gators keeping the nerves under control here.
9:20pm: Shaffer, FX: Double pike to open, nice amplitude there. 1.5 to front lay, great body position on those. Double tuck, looked her ankle tried to give way underneath her but she kept it on her feet, looked like she might have stepped out of bounds? Hard to see in the slow mo angle, score will tell.
9:21pm: Baumann, BB: Let’s see how our ice queen bounce back after a fall last week. Bhs loso, dead on. Switch to split, nicely done. Front aerial to beat jump, great. Side aerial, gorgeous. Roundoff 1.5 stuck! They took out her switch half, which is where she fell last week, and clearly it worked. She’s probably not happy watering it down, but she stayed on!
9:23pm: Hambrick, FX: Double tuck to start, huge air on that. Rudi to layout to double stag, gets some air on that jump too! Great amplitude on her dance series. Double pike to close, super clean – THAT will be a great score for the Gymbacks.
9:25pm: Wong, BB: Switch to split leap, looovely. Bhs loso, solid there. Front aerial, weird delayed bobble there? Side aerial, good. Roundoff double full, stuck!
9:27pm: Sedlacek, FX: Full in to start, a little staggered in the legs but landed fine. 1.5 to front lay, good form and control there. Double tuck to close, and it’s a great one! What a way to debut on floor for the freshman!
9:29pm: Thomas, BB: One-arm bhs loso, so confident on that. Front aerial to beat to bhs swingdown (korbut), quick and clean on each of those connections. Side aerial bhs is stuck!
Smith, FX: Piked full-in, very nice! Love to see Arkansas going for the difficulty. Front tuck through to double tuck, also well controlled. Dance series is solid. Double pike to finish – all double saltos in her routine! Wow!
Meanwhile, it was another PERFECT TEN for Thomas!! What a night for these Gators!!
9:33pm: Clapper, BB: Bhs loso loso, just effortless for her. Switch to split, a little tight on the 180 positions maybe? Side aerial back full stuck! Crowd is going nuts for her, but I kinda doubt it’ll be another 10.
9:35pm: Lovett, FX: DLO to start, and it’s a huge one, just a beauty! Double tuck for her second pass, practically rotates the whole thing in place. Dance series is gorgeous. Front half front full to stag half, and that’s another huge routine – the back half of this Arkansas floor lineup has been really strong, I’m so impressed.
AFTER THREE: UF 148.975, ARK 147.0
9:45pm: Gianfagna, BB: Bhs loso, solid start. Cat leap to front toss, nice. Beat to straddle half, little balance check there. Roundoff 1.5, looked stuck but then she kinda jumped out of it? Don’t know if I would count that.
9:47pm: Skaggs, FX: Double wolf to start us off, makes it around cleanly. Rudi, normally does a jump out of that pass but she didn’t do it… I wonder if she’ll try to add more bonus somewhere else. Dance series was solid, still only two elements there though. 1.5 to front lay to finish – nope, didn’t add anything. Wonder if she has enough built in extra bonus or if her score will suffer.
9:49pm: Lovett, BB: Front aerial to loso, that’s a different series, trying not to use her arms since she has a nagging elbow injury. Switch to split, nice extension in those. Side aerial to back full stuck! She is such a rockstar for this team.
9:51pm: Blakely, FX: Double arabian, that’s the best I’ve seen her do that! Just pops the landing into a lunge, very nice. Switch ring to switch half, good positions in the air. Double tuck, a little slide on that landing but solid amplitude. 1.5 to front lay to finish, that was maybe her best floor yet!
9:52pm: Smith, BB: Candle mount to open, love that for her. Bhs loso, little lean but keeps it under control. Dance series is solid. Double tuck dismount and she nails it! Stuck! That’s huge, she is going to be such an asset to this team over the next four years.
9:54pm: Baumann, FX: 1.5 to front full to open, good control dancing out of that. Love the preciseness of the choreo in here. Double pike to finish, she’s so thrilled with this routine, as she should be! I am just waiting for the day where she gets her 10, but I doubt it’ll be today. Third in the lineup order is just highly unlikely to do it.
9:56pm: Sedlacek, BB: Bhs 2ft layout, love to see that! Dance series is good. Side somi, a little lean but she keeps it small. Small step on the dismount. Beam is looking good for Arkansas too!
9:58pm: Wong, FX: Triple full to open, just FLIES through the air. Combo pass is lovely. Double pike to finish, nicely done.
10:00pm: Hambrick, BB: Looking great so far, series and switch to switch half. I’m starting to get a little bit of a migraine so forgive me if I miss a few things here, y’all. Cartwheel gainer full stuck! Arkansas going for it here, even when they’re so far back. Good for them.
10:02pm: Clark, FX: We LOVE to see her in this lineup! Thomas getting some rest this week. 1.5 to front full, little hop forward out of it but keeps it small. Dance series looked good in positions but maybe a little imprecise in rotation? Double tuck is nice to finish it out. Asst coach Adrian Burde goes nuts in the background – he is thrilled to see her stepping up into this lineup, clearly!
10:04pm: Elswick, BB: I missed most of this routine, but clearly this was a huge hit, as they team went nuts afterward and they’re chanting for 10s.
10:06pm: Reed, FX: Love to see her anchoring here – she deserves it. How does she seem to exude even MORE confidence now? I didn’t think that was possible! DLO to lead off, and it’s ENORMOUS. Little foot slide on the landing though. Front lay Rudi, another foot slide on the landing. Dance series is solid. Double pike to finish, this time she keeps that foot glued down. That should be a great score!
FINAL: UF 198.15, ARK 196.475
What a night, y’all! Well, unfortunately, I am in a pretty tenuous Internet situation, so I won’t be attending the press conference tonight, but we’ll see y’all next week for the next meet! Goodnight!