Gymdogs Set For Mardi Gras Invitational
Feb. 15, 2017
No. 10 Georgia (5-2) vs. No. 1 Oklahoma (8-0), No. 2 LSU (6-0), No. 15 Missouri (8-3)
ATHENS, Ga. -- The 10th-ranked Georgia gymnastics team (5-2, 4-2) is set to take part in the Mardi Gras Invitational on Friday at Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo.
Other competitors in the Mardi Gras Invitational field include top-ranked Oklahoma, No. 2 LSU and 15th-ranked Missouri. Georgia has already faced LSU and Mizzou, splitting those two contests this year. The Gymdogs will start the meet on beam, then move to floor, vault and bars, respectively.
The invitational is the first of two consecutive matchups against the Sooners, which will be potentially the first time that Georgia faces the No. 1 team in back-to-back meets since nationals in 2013 and the first time in the regular season since 2002 (UCLA).
The Gymdogs look to regain momentum after seeing their five-meet win streak snapped by Florida last Friday in Gainesville, falling to the third-ranked Gators 197.975-196.525.
The meet will be available via FloGymnastics streaming, though viewers will have to pay for a subscription to be able to watch.
Last Time Out: Gymdogs Fall in Road Contest
The Gymdogs brought a five-meet win streak with them when they hit the road toward Gainesville, but a historic night for Florida with the Gators' second-best score all-time ended the streak of success, 197.975-196.525.
A solid team performance on the road drew praise from head coach Danna Durante for the team's poise in what she described as a "great, electric" environment. The Gymdogs' score represented their second-best on the road this season, coming against the second-highest-ranked team they've faced all year.
Freshman Rachel Dickson and junior Vivi Babalis each set new career highs on beam in the meet, with Dickson claiming a 9.85 and Babalis posting a 9.9. The meet was the first time this season in which Georgia's highest rotation score came on beam.
The meet also marked the return of sophomore Sydney Snead, who had missed the previous two meets due to maintenance of a lingering back condition. The Raleigh, N.C. native competed on bars as she reconditions herself for competition, the first time she has competed in only one event in her collegiate career.
An Unmatched Test
In Georgia's gymnastics history, the team has never faced the top two teams in the country at the same meet in the regular season. The Mardi Gras Invitational gives the team that opportunity as the Gymdogs will face top-ranked Oklahoma as well as No. 2 LSU for the second time this season. Georgia opened the year in Baton Rouge, falling to the Tigers after they posted their best season-opening score in program history. Georgia also will be facing No. 15 Missouri for the second time this year, having emerged victorious in the teams' meeting in Athens.
Tough Road Ahead
After a four-meet homestand, Georgia heads into three consecutive meets on the road in what promise to be challenging meets.
Last week Georgia fell on the road to Florida, losing to the third-ranked Gators 197.975-196.525.
The team gets no reprieve this week as the Gymdogs fly to St. Charles, Mo. for a quad meet with No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 LSU and No. 13 Missouri. The road swing concludes on Friday, Feb. 24 at top-ranked Oklahoma.
The Gymdogs will conclude regular season competition with two home meets over UGA's spring break - Sunday, March 5 against Alabama and Saturday, March 11 against Utah.
Gymdog Depth Is Evident
Head coach Danna Durante has glowed about the team's depth from 1 to 6 in the lineup. The numbers so far this season back that up.
Eight different Gymdogs have won event titles so far this season: Rachel Dickson (6), Lauren Johnson (1), Gigi Marino (1), Morgan Reynolds (2), Rachel Schick (3), Sydney Snead (7), Natalie Vaculik (1) and Sabrina Vega (2).
Despite not yet winning an event title this season, junior Hayley Sanders has also been the leading scorer on beam for Georgia once, giving UGA nine different event-best scorers for the team.
By contrast, only seven Gymdogs won event titles a year ago. The most gymnasts to claim event crowns in a year under head coach Danna Durante's direction at UGA was 10 in 2013, her first season at the helm in Athens.
Syd Steps Back In
Sophomore Sydney Snead made her return to competition last Friday after missing two meets while nursing a back condition.
Snead, who competed all-around for the Gymdogs in their first four meets, competed only on bars at Florida and claimed a 9.875.
The Raleigh, N.C. native leads the team with seven event titles on the year. A sophomore standout, Snead competed three events as a freshman before adding beam to her repertoire for the 2017 season.
Reynolds in the All-Around
Senior Morgan Reynolds stepped into the all-around role when Sydney Snead was pulled prior to the Missouri meet as a precaution for an existing back condition. In the two meets since stepping in for all four events, including beam for the first two times this year over the last two meets, Reynolds has won two event titles (vault and all-around against Kentucky) and has posted a 39.4 in both meets in her first all-around action.
Most recently, the Athens native received a 39.275 against Florida.
Reynolds claims the 17th-best all-around average nationally thanks to her strong start while performing all four events for the Gymdogs.
Dickson Does It All
Rachel Dickson became the first freshman Gymdog to compete all-around since current undergraduate coach Brittany Rogers showcased her skills in 2013. It was a historic night for the Canton, Michigan native, as she set new career highs in all four events and in the all-around while winning three event titles and the all-around title.
Dickson had been showing great consistency leading up to the meet, hitting her career high on vault and bars of 9.85 three times in four routines over the previous two meets.
Against Missouri, Dickson brought her game to another level by posting a 9.9 on vault, 9.925 on bars, 9.75 on beam, and 9.95 on floor for an all-around score of 39.525, the best such score for Georgia this season.
After a fall on beam brought her all-around score to a 38.8 against Kentucky, Dickson bounced back with a strong performance at Florida with a 39.375 on the road.
Gigi On That Beat
Junior Gigi Marino quietly produced great numbers on floor in 2016, posting the 10th-best season all-time at UGA in the event. Marino's total of 157.975 points was second-best on the team, trailing only All-American Mary Beth Box and her 158.2125.
Marino's career numbers are equally impressive, if not more. In fact, if the Scottsdale, Ariz. native can maintain her career routine average on floor entering this season (9.8365) and can compete in 28 more meets, she will finish as Georgia's all-time leading scorer on floor for a career.
The Scottsdale, Ariz. native has done her part to make history so far this season, averaging just north of 9.87 per routine on floor, including a season-high 9.95 in the Gymdogs' meet against Missouri.
Sanders Gets Her Shot on Beam
Junior Hayley Sanders has wanted to compete on beam since arriving on campus, and she finally got her shot last Monday against NC State.
The McKinney, Texas native took a confident beam turn, performing to "Lip Gloss" by Lil Mama and scored a 9.775.
She followed that performance with a 9.825 on beam on Friday, the second-best score for the Gymdogs in the Arkansas meet, and then led all Gymdogs with a 9.875 against Missouri. The McKinney, Texas native finished off the home stretch with a 9.65 against Kentucky.
Head coach Danna Durante spoke after the NC State meet about the long journey Sanders took to crack the beam lineup, progressing during practice and remaining patient while perfecting her routine, logging long hours and countless reps in the process before having her hard work pay off.
2017 Schedule Tabbed Toughest
The websites NCAA Gym News and RoadToNationals, the official website for women's collegiate gymnastics, declared that the Gymdogs have the toughest schedule of any team in the country for 2017. Using a mathematical formula based around the final 2016 standings, NCAA Gym News determined that Georgia's 2017 opponents had the highest average final rank of any team in the country. The top four teams in the poll all hail from the SEC, including Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
Gymdogs Remain a Draw
Georgia had its seventh-highest attendance for a season a year ago, averaging 9,212 fans per home meet. Over the regular season, the Gymdogs brought in an average of 10,055 fans per meet, the highest number in program history.
In four meets this season, Georgia has totaled 37,241 fans for an average of 9,310 per meet, good for better than 90-percent capacity of Stegeman Coliseum and fourth-best attendance mark in the nation.
The duo has been praised by head coach Danna Durante for their focused approach to practice and for pushing everyone else on the team to step up and make themselves better as well.
Dickson has stepped up in her new all-around role which began in the Missouri meet when Sydney Snead was pulled as a precaution for a back condition. The Canton, Mich. native posted a 39.525 in her first-ever all-around, setting new career highs in every event against Mizzou. She followed with a solid meet against Kentucky in which she claimed the bars all-around title (9.9), shared with Natalie Vaculik.
Vega, who missed the Missouri meet due to illness, returned to the lineup against Kentucky and claimed a 9.825 on beam and 9.9 on floor to win her second-career event title. The Carmel, N.Y. native now has two event titles in her young career, both taken on floor over Georgia's recently-concluded four-meet homestand.
Jordyn Pedersen, who has yet to crack the competition lineup, has been knocking on the door of being inserted into the lineup and is perfecting her routines in practice.
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