Auburn came away with a victory in its third meet of the season against Missouri because of a season-high on vault, but the Tigers will have to fire on all cylinders to beat a Georgia program on the road that has won 10 national championships in its history.
Auburn is 2-1 this season, picking up both of its victories at home. The Tigers are yet to find their stride on the road as they put up a season-low in total points at LSU, finishing with a score of 196.275.
So what will Auburn have to do to pick up its first road win of the season against a bitter rival? The answer has become somewhat of a mantra for the Tigers this season: “Stay in the bubble.”
Many of the gymnasts have been talking about staying in the bubble this season which, for the team, means focusing on what they can do individually to contribute, while also blocking out negative crowd energy.
It’s a tough task trying to maintain focus against a sold-out crowd in Athens, they said, but it’s a challenge the Tigers are looking forward to.
“This is why they’re here. They showed up in the SEC at Auburn to be in meets like this,” said head Jeff Graba.
The meet will be televised on ESPN on Super Bowl Sunday, which will make it one of the biggest stages the girls will compete in this year.
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“We need to focus our energy just in ourselves,” Drew Watson said.
Watson has been one of the leaders in promoting staying in the bubble, and she has also been one of the biggest factors in Auburn finding success this season.
Watson put up a career-high in the vault against Missouri, and she is ranked in the Top 25 nationally in the all-around event. Watson was proud of her vault score Friday night, but she is staying humble about her work ethic.
“It was really special, but I could still improve,” she said.
The junior from Tyler, Texas, has emerged as a leader this year for the team, and for the Tigers to find momentum on the road they will need a steady performance from their star.
One other aspect Auburn will have to monitor is staying focused through a long period of rest before the meet on Sunday, Graba noted.
“You can get into a real bad place if you’re not paying attention as far as health of your athletes,” Graba said.
Coach Graba will be looking to get a productive week of practice in for Georgia, making sure all the gymnasts are locked in for what should be a challenge in terms of mental toughness.
Auburn's matchup with Georgia begins at 3 p.m. CST on Sunday.
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