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A spirit that is not afraid

No. 7 Auburn hosts No. 25 Arkansas in first home meet

Auburn Gymnast Ananda Brown vaults during the gymnastics preview meet in Neville Arena on Dec. 16, 2022.
Auburn Gymnast Ananda Brown vaults during the gymnastics preview meet in Neville Arena on Dec. 16, 2022.

After a tough road loss to a championship-caliber Florida team, the No. 7 Tigers host the No. 25 Arkansas Razorbacks in a top-25 matchup. 

While in Gainesville, Auburn finished with a 197.2, outscoring the Gators on the bars in a sold-out arena. Now the Tigers, after two away matches, will finally perform at home in The Jungle.

In the past two meets, Auburn has averaged a final score of 197.063, compared to the Razorbacks' 195.875. However, Arkansas has shown it is a strong competitor, with high scores of 49.325 and 49.350 on the beam and floor to outscore No. 11 Alabama on both those apparatuses.

"Arkansas is under-ranked and is a really good team," said head coach Jeff Graba. "I think we have our hands full this Friday because Arkansas is full of talent and experience with really good coaches. We have to be on our game, which is going to be good for us. We've already had a few heavy matchups this season so just because we're at home, doesn't mean we can take a breath."

For Arkansas, the team has shown growth in each event but primarily on the vault. In the first meet at Nebraska, none of the gymnasts surpassed a 9.9. Then against Alabama, graduate student Norah Flatley got the Razorbacks' first 9.90 on the vault this season — along with Makenzie Sedlacek. If Arkansas continues to show this improvement, it can be a tough competitor for the Tigers. 

Along with her 9.9 on the vault and winning the vault title, Flatley placed first in the all-around with a score of 39.575. Her high, consistent scores will help Arkansas break 197 and be able to compete with this Auburn team. Additionally, she finished the Razorbacks’ beam rotation with a 9.9. Scores above 9.9 are crucial against the Tigers; they have shown to be a team with strong outputs on beam, having sophomore Suni Lee getting a 10 in their first meet.

"It'll be a lot of fun to be home in Neville Arena," Graba said. "It's the best environment in NCAA gymnastics. We are excited to kick off our home schedule against a really tough conference opponent and to have fun with the fans."

To combat Arkansas’ improving team, Lee and Cassie Stevens will help lead the Tigers to a potential win. Against Florida, both placed third in the all-around with two scores above a 9.9. It is also not uncommon to see Lee score a 10 on either the beam or bars and graduate Derrian Gobourne has that same potential on the floor. 

“I’ve been pretty happy with our performances,” Graba said. “We’ve been on the road the first two weeks and they were tough trips with little practice. I feel like we’ve tested ourselves well and we did well so I’m happy with where we are heading into our home schedule.”

If the Tigers win, they will keep up their winning record against Arkansas, bringing it to 10-9 and extend their current win streak to four while for the Razorbacks look to end it and start their own streak. 

The meet will be held in Neville Arena at 7:30 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Amanda Davidson | Sports Writer

Amanda Davidson is a sophomore at Auburn, majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing and studio arts. From LaGrange, Ga., she started with The Plainsman in fall 2022.

Twitter: @Manny1Davidson

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