No. 17 Auburn lost its seven-game, home winning streak Friday night versus No. 13 Kentucky falling by a final score of 197.275-196.250.
The Tigers were coming off of a road loss to Georgia with intentions to work on the small things and started off strong, but ultimately trailed off to leave Auburn Arena without a win.
“I thought we started well and the last three routines finished well,” head coach Jeff Graba said. “I think in the middle it’s evident where physically, mentally and emotionally we’re exhausted at this point. The beginning of the season and the travel has taken a toll on us and now we’re able to periodically perform at a high level, but we’re not working on all cylinders.”
The Tigers started their night on the vault with junior Jada Glenn to lead. Glenn was soon followed by senior Gracie Day matching her career-high with a 9.925. The all-around freshman competitor Cassie Stevens took the vault next and grabbed a new career-high at 9.900.
The vault ended with junior Drew Watson and sophomore Derrian Gobourne, both scoring a 9.900 which tied Gobourne’s season-high. Auburn ended with a new season-high on vault, after just breaking it at its previous meet, pulling a 49.425.
Rotation two was less favorable for Auburn as Kentucky gained the meet lead. Auburn’s leading freshman Stevens, Adeline Sabados and Aria Brusch pulled a 9.775, 9.725 and 9.750 respectively. Watson took a tumble off the bars but proceeded to get back up and carry on gaining a 9.075.
Gobourne anchored the bars with a 9.875 making Auburn’s final bar score 48.925. After rotation two Kentucky led 98.475-98.350.
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“Personally I felt we were kind of trying a little too hard to be perfect,” Day said. “I think we got comfortable after vault and we kind of noticed that and tried to pick it back up, but like I said we were just trying too hard to be perfect instead of letting out gymnastics speak for itself.”
The third rotation kept Auburn trailing as many of Kentucky’s gymnasts met their personal bests on the floor while Auburn put up its second-lowest beam score of the season. Senior Emma Slappey started off for the Tigers and gained a 9.100 after slipping off the beam. Brusch and Stevens followed with a 9.800 and a 9.675.
Junior Meredith Sylvia, who is deemed as the “beam queen,” helped the Tigers’ average with a gain of 9.875. Another all-around competitor Watson redeemed herself on the beam with a 9.775 followed by an eruption from the crowd.
Sheppard anchored the rotation with a 9.725. Auburn’s beam final was a 48.850 while rotation three concluded with a meet score of 147.975-147.200 in favor of the Wildcats.
“Warm-ups were predictably tight and tired,” Graba said. “I liked the fight all the way through I loved the fight at the end, it shows they got heart to finish like that. We have to make choices now on training that focus on energy and technique and we’re gonna have to make energy choices now.”
Auburn’s final rotation on the floor started off strong with a 9.675 from sophomore Sabrina Cheney but needed near perfect on the following floor routines for a chance to pull out the win. Stevens followed for her fourth rotation of the night and gained a 9.750 for the Tigers. A stumble from Sheppard earned her a 9.100.
Watson followed with a 9.875 and a big crowd reaction, but the reaction for Brusch’s 9.850 was even bigger. After Brusch’s first pass the crowd exploded only to end on their feet for her final. The anchor from Gorbourne was a crowd favorite that resulted in a 9.950 and a final beam score of 49.000 but wasn’t enough to secure a Tiger win.
“I think individually, especially after bars I really tried to set it up for my team,” Brusch said.”I felt like I did a good job of that even with the energy being forced I felt like I was able to pick it up. [We talked about] being a family and being there for the team and not for yourself cause even though I had a great night, it’s a team sport.”
Auburn will be back home for the second week in a row to face Florida on Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
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