April 2, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. --- The University of Georgia gymnastics team used its second-highest team score of the season to finish second at the NCAA Southeast Regional Saturday in Stegeman Coliseum, earning a place in the 12-team field of the 2011 NCAA Championships April 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Gym Dogs put up an overall score of 196.750 to finish behind only sixth-ranked UCLA's 197.425. No. 18 LSU took third with their 195.350, followed by NC State with a 194.750, Maryland with a 193.200, and West Virginia with a 192.500.
"The biggest thing we knew we had to do was to qualify," said head coach Jay Clark. "We competed a little scared up front and it might be because last year was floating around in some of their heads and they were a little timid because they didn't want to see that happen again. They started out a little rough, but we settled in and saw some great things from various people. We weren't perfect, but we had enough fight and enough in the tank to get it done. Towards the end of the meet it was nice to be in a place where there wasn't an awful lot of heat on us. We knew we just had to hit bars, and we were able to do that."
"We wanted to win this meet. We are happy that we are going back to nationals, but we still lost the meet. That's never what a Georgia team sets out to do. What we've done at this point is taken a step toward recapturing the momentum that we need. Now we can go to nationals and compete aggressively and free. This is anybody's meet this year. We're happy tonight, but our goals are still in front of us."
The Gym Dogs started on beam, where they totaled a 48.8 while UCLA posted a 49.4 on floor to take the early lead. Georgia had a bye in the second rotation while the Bruins scored a 49.4 on vault to post a 98.8 through two, and LSU scored a 48.650 to start on floor.
Georgia's second rotation was floor, where sophomore Shayla Worley started things off with a 9.850 to set the tone as all six Gym Dogs posted at least a 9.8 on the event. The trio of Mariel Box, Noel Couch, and Gina Nuccio scored 9.8s while McComb led the way with her 9.9 and classmate Hilary Mauro posted a 9.850. Georgia finished with a 49.200 on the event to post an even 98.000 at the halfway point. LSU used a 49.075 on vault to score a 97.725 after two events while the Bruins had the bye.
The Gym Dogs' next stop was vault, where freshman Cat Hires tied her career-high with a 9.850 in the first position. Couch followed that with a 9.875 and rookie Lindsey Cheek went 9.850. Kat Ding was the high-scorer for the Gym Dogs with her 9.9 and McComb closed it out with a 9.850 as the squad finished their third rotation with a 49.325 and stand with 147.325 after three. With LSU on a bye, UCLA increased the lead with a 49.425 on bars to total 148.225 at that point.
Georgia had another bye on the next rotation before closing out with its strongest performance of the night on bars. Christa Tanella and Couch started with matching 9.825s, before Nuccio (9.925), McComb (9.9), and Ding (9.950) all tied their career-highs. The Gym Dogs finished with a 49.425 on their final event, good for their second-best bars score of the season, to wrap up the meet with a 196.750 and secure one of the 12 spots in Cleveland.
McComb ended in third place in the all-around with her 39.425, followed by Couch's fourth place finish with a 39.225. Ding, Nuccio, and McComb were 1-2-3 on bars while Ding took second on vault and McComb tied for second on floor.
"To be a championship team you can't be worried about one event," McComb said. "It's about all four events. We can't have this demon of beam because we are an awesome beam team. We just wanted to get back there (to NCAAs). Now we have a lot of work to do. We can celebrate now for the night, but then it's back to work because we have some things to fix. We've been waiting for this night ever since we walked out of that arena last year. We've been fighting, we've been hungry and just wanted to get back out here and get back to where we belong."
The 10-time NCAA champion Gym Dogs have now hosted the NCAA Regional eight times and have advanced to the NCAA Championships all eight times. Georgia has reached NCAAs in 27 of the last 28 years. Tonight's top two finishers in UCLA and Georgia have combined to win 13 of the last 14 NCAA titles.
The first NCAA Championships semifinal session is slated for Fri., April 15 at 1 p.m. ET, followed by the second session at 7 p.m. The top three teams in each session will advance to the team finals April 16 at 5 p.m. ET. The individual championships are schedule for April 17 at 2 p.m.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets to the 2011 NCAA Gymnastics Championships are on sale now and can be purchased online through the Wolstein Center Online Ticket Office. Tickets can also be ordered by calling (216) 687-4848. All session tickets for youth and students are $33, while single sessions tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for youth. For more information, fans can call the UGA Athletic Ticket Office at 877-542-1231.