No. 12 Auburn produced another season-best in its season finale loss to No. 8 Arkansas, 197.425-197.125.
This is the third year Auburn has been able to produce a 197 or higher more than twice in a season. Auburn’s previous highs were against LSU, Georgia and Florida.
“I think we proved we’re a top-10 team and we can compete with anybody in the country,” said head coach Jeff Graba. “We’re the youngest team in the country and we’ve had the toughest schedule in the country. I told the girls I was really proud they made it through a regular season that a lot of teams wouldn’t be mentally able to make it through. It was a great finish.”
The Tigers saw Auburn Arena for the final time this season and for senior Meredith Sylvia, it was her final time to perform. Sylvia is known for her beam routines as she has competed in every single meet on beam except for her first two meets as a freshman.
“I just approached it like any other meet,” Sylvia said. “I’m happy with how the team did right now and I couldn’t have asked for a better senior night. I think we all did amazing and that’s what I wanted to do, just be us out there. It’s bittersweet. I’m sad I won’t be able to compete in Auburn Arena again but I’m definitely happy with how it went.”
Tonight was no different for the senior. Her beam routine earned a 9.9 to tie her season-best. This was just 0.25 away from her career-high she earned in 2019. This beam score pushed Auburn within 0.25 to Arkansas just before the final event.
“That was icing on the cake,” Slyvia said. “I told myself before I went out to just have fun, just enjoy it. I try not to base it off of my actual performance and more of my mindset. So I was really just going up there and saying to myself, ‘Alright just enjoy this last one no matter what it looks like.’ So it worked out.”
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The first two events ended trailing Arkansas as well. During rotation one Auburn performed a season-high that averaged a 49.275. In Auburn fashion, the vault saw four career and season ties or bests. Senior Drew Watson tied her season high with a 9.9. Sophomore Piper Smith also propelled the Tigers with a 9.8 after pulling a Yurchenko full.
Rotation two started off tough for the Tigers as sophomore Anna Sumner took a tumble off the uneven bars. However, hope was not lost for Auburn as junior Derrian Gobourne stepped up to anchor. Gobourne stuck her landing for a 9.95, a career-best, to take the event. The Tigers continued to trail Arkansas after averaging 49.300.
The Tigers took to the floor after Auburn’s top-scoring average of the night on beam 49.325. Floor began with a lineup change as Hollingsworth was replaced with Oldham due to a foot injury. This was the first time in six meets that Oldham was not in the original line up, but she came in and produced a 9.8 to tie her career-best.
“We have depth for a reason,” Graba said. “It was a pretty easy decision. We decided, hey, we’re not risking anything. We’re going to make a quick change and, to [Oldham’s] credit, she stepped right up, got in the same spot...and did a good job.”
Oldham being originally taken out was so that sophomore Aria Brusch could see the floor for the first time this season after suffering a shoulder injury. Brusch was able to make up for lost time scoring a 9.875. Once again Gobourne anchored for Auburn and closed the Tigers season tying her career-high with a 9.975.
Now Auburn is looking at a bye week. This bye week will give the Tigers time to get gymnastics like sophomore Cassie Stevens, Brusch and Watson healthier as they’ve both faced challenges this season with injuries.
“First and foremost is getting conditioned to throw these routines in postseason because it’s a faster, more aggressive meet,” Graba said. “We have to work on the little things obviously. We’re young giving away silly things that we don’t need to give away. We’ve got to dial in and get that stuff figured out cause the postseason is unforgiving.”
The Tigers will be seen next in the SEC Championship set to take place March 20.
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