Auburn came up short in a matchup with Kentucky last Friday night, falling to the No. 13 Wildcats 197.275-196.250. And in SEC gymnastics, it never gets easier.
The Tigers will play host to No. 2 Florida this Friday night in a matchup that could be a signature win for Auburn, which is ready for a big victory.
The Tigers have been close in matchups with premier SEC teams such as LSU, Georgia and Kentucky but have fallen short as 197 scores have slipped away in the middle events.
"They do know what they're capable of," Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said of how close his team is to putting up great scores. "We've had six meets and only one of them where we weren’t in striking distance of a 197."
Graba has been talking for weeks about finding that elusive 197 score, and he’s hoping that his team can find it this week against such a talented Florida group.
Auburn is a young team, but that has not been a problem for the Tigers lately as freshmen continue to contribute to the team in huge ways.
“We've been proud of them for not backing down from any occasion,” said junior Meredith Sylvia.
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Freshman Cassie Stevens has her young career off to a strong start picking up a 9.9 in the vault against Kentucky, which helped the team score a season-high in vault of 49.425. The freshman trio of Stevens, Adeline Sabados and Aria Brusch have been assisting the team in all four events, with bars becoming a point of emphasis for the young gymnasts.
While the gymnasts will be getting ready mentally for a big matchup this week, Coach Graba after two straight losses decided to let them rest this weekend instead of practice.
"We needed to hit the reset button, and the only way we get something out of the reset button is if we have energy to follow it up,” Graba said.
The team is planning to practice Monday and then have a light practice on Thursday leading up to meet day. Graba mentioned it was one of the first time in his career he’s taken this approach and it’s largely due to the loaded schedule Auburn has faced.
Auburn has worked through three meets in 14 days, not to mention against top competition in the country. They have been pushing their bodies to the physical limit and Graba knows the fatigue showed up against Kentucky.
“We weren’t full energy on Friday night,” Graba said. “The middle events were really struggling, so it was an energy thing.”
The time off should have the Tigers well-rested on Friday night, as they hope that will be the change the team has been looking for to execute against a top team. Graba and the team knows they will have to execute in all four events to pick up a home win against the Gators.
"I think we are good enough to beat anyone in the country, but we have to be on our game," Graba said.
Auburn will face off against the Gators at 7:30 p.m. CST on Friday in Auburn Arena, and the match will be broadcast on SEC Network. Coach Graba mentioned how appreciative he was of the crowd’s energy on Friday and he hopes to see a packed house again against the Gators on Valentine’s Day.
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