A young Auburn gymnastics team will be on the road again to face in-state rival Alabama.
Auburn took another fall last weekend against Kentucky. This dropped the Tigers’ ranking from No. 9 to No. 18. Auburn has been playing a younger team than prepared for on the lineups. This has pushed Auburn back in its scoring, but it also gives underclassmen real experience and motives to improve.
“We lost 30% of our starting lineup, almost 40% of our starting lineup from the Florida meet to the Kentucky meet,” head coach Jeff Graba said. “We found out on Wednesday afternoon after practice was over for the week. We weren’t able to prepare the freshmen who filled those spots and I felt like they handled it really well. So we did a lot of growing on the job so to speak.”
Underclassmen were performing for their first or second time ever in their college careers in 14 out of the 24 events versus Kentucky. It was also all of the freshmen’s first away-routine. Freshman Olivia Hollingsworth was a leader and went all-around for her first time averaging 37.975 overall.
Now, No. 18 Auburn takes on No. 10 Alabama in the Iron Bowl of gymnastics. Alabama is currently undefeated after its second meet against Missouri. The Tide also have a younger team who is leading on the mats including freshman Shania Adams who was awarded SEC Freshman Gymnast of the Week.
“Everybody is going to have to keep their head on straight,” Graba said. “It’s a tough environment, it's a tough arena and obviously it’s a tough match-up. Anywhere in the SEC is a tough match-up, but it is the Iron Bowl of gymnastics. So I’m trying to get a lot of young people to understand what that means.”
Auburn is planning on keeping lineups similar, despite the young add-ins from the Kentucky meet. The COVID-19 situation has proven to continue creating problems as far as planning and practices go for gymnastics, but the Tigers are staying positive and taking it one practice at a time.
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Part of that includes focusing on Auburn rather than who is across the mat. As the Tigers are early in the season, it’s hard to look for constancies in other teams and where that team struggles. The first month of match-ups is dedicated to securing a designated lineup and attempting upgrades.
“Last year [against Alabama] we did a really good job of staying in our bubble and focusing on us and on Auburn,” sophomore Adeline Sabados said. “Not looking at the other team, not focusing on the scores, not focusing on anything but us and I think that’s the ticket here. I think we just need to do the same thing and reiterate how important it is to stay focused on Auburn.”
No. 18 Auburn will face No. 10 Alabama on Friday, Jan. 22 in Tuscaloosa and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.
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