Auburn gymnastics is headed to top-ranked Florida for its last road meet on Friday.
The Tigers earned their first win last week against Georgia, boosting their average to 196.163. The meet was full of career and season-bests to enhance the win. Now Auburn is headed to Florida for its second time facing the top team.
In most sports taking on the No. 1 team in the nation is something to dread. However, Auburn gymnastics doesn’t see it that way.
“The difference in gymnastics is they’re going to judge our performance and they’re going to judge Florida’s performance,” Graba said. “In the SEC we’re lucky, we get a lot of Top 10 teams. We’ve had a lot this year we’ve had to compete against. The positive is you can get directly compared to a Top 10 team on that night.”
The Tigers see this as an opportunity to prove they are a Top 10 team. Auburn competed closely with No. 2 LSU and only lost by a score of 197.500-197.075.
Gymnastics presents a direct comparison of the two teams competing rather than the SEC as a whole at that moment. The Tigers see this as an advantage taking on the No. 1 team to show that they can compete at that level.
“We believe we almost had a shot at beating LSU at home,” Graba said. “We were within two-tenths with the final rotation. Well, that was the No. 19 team in the country against the No. 2 team in the country. Somebody’s not ranked correctly. I would be willing to bet LSU is ranked pretty correctly. So my thought is, put us up against the top teams and we’ll show you that we deserve to be there.”
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Auburn is starting to look at the postseason now that there are only two meets left. National qualifying scores will be released after these Week 7 meets. The Tigers are hoping for a high road score this weekend to boost that NQS before the Road to Nationals.
Auburn wants an NQS that will secure them in the Top 16. This gives the Tigers a national seed that will push them later into the national meets. To do this, Auburn is looking to overtake one of its highest road scores and replace it with this Florida meet.
One thing that is making this week challenging for the Tigers is fatigue. Auburn moved its bye week up this season because of COVID-19 concerns within LSU, forcing the two to reschedule the original meet.
These student-athletes are now having to balance meets, postseason and school work.
“This was one of the weeks we had to pull off the throttle,” Graba said. “We’re tired. We lost our bye-week earlier when LSU rescheduled, so we’re really a week overdue for some rest. When you pull off physically, they’re capable of bouncing back and they feel better and I think they can put more energy into their school work as well as into the gym.”
The Tigers are resting mentally and physically for Friday's matchup but are looking forward to proving what Auburn is made of when it comes to these tough competitions.
No. 18 Auburn takes on No. 1 Florida Friday in Gainsville, Florida. The meet will be broadcasted on SEC Network and will start at 7:30 p.m. CST.
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