TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - After posting a season-high score at Georgia last week, the No. 3 ranked Alabama gymnastics team continues its road swing Friday, traveling to No. 9 Michigan for a Southeastern Conference-Big 10 showdown in Crisler Arena and starting at 7 p.m. EST.
The Crimson Tide scored a 197.675 last Friday night against the Bulldogs, marking the third consecutive time Alabama has eclipsed the 197 plateau this season. The Tide's total at UGA is the second highest in the nation this year, just .05 behind Florida's 197.725 from mid-February. Now UA head coach Sarah Patterson is looking to build off of last week's performance against Michigan.
"Michigan is a great team," Patterson said. "We are stepping outside of our conference to compete against last year's Big 10 champions and I feel that we are not only representing ourselves, but also our conference. It's also an opportunity to compete in front of another set of judges that we might not see until the national championship."
Senior Kayla Hoffman is coming off a career-night at Georgia where she won the all-around with a career-best 39.675, which ties her for the high score in the nation this season. Junior Geralen Stack-Eaton took the silver in the all-around with a 39.650, just .025 off her career best.
"Kayla is one of the true perfect packages in terms of being pretty equal on all events," Patterson said. "Because she is now confident in what she is doing and Geralen's confident in what she is doing, their presence is really helping people like Sarah DeMeo and some of our other freshmen."
After experiencing some struggles on the uneven bars early in the season the Tide has bounced back over the last three meets, including a strong start against the Bulldogs, scoring 49.325, anchored by scores of 9.925 from both Stack-Eaton and Hoffman, giving the team a confidence boost going into this weekend.
The Wolverines are led by senior Kylee Botterman who is ranked No. 1 in the all-around, second on the vault (where she is tied with Hoffman), seventh on the floor, ninth on the beam and 16th on the uneven bars. She is the only gymnast in the country ranked in the top 25 in all five categories this week. Botterman and Hoffman are among just four gymnasts that are ranked on four or more events this week.
Alabama and Michigan last met in the semi-finals of the 2010 NCAA Championships, where the Crimson Tide finished first with a 197.400 and the Wolverines were fourth with a 196.300. The two teams also met in last year's regular-season finale when Alabama posted a season-high to beat UM in Tuscaloosa 197.575-196.875. Alabama last competed in Ann Arbor in the last regular-season meet of the 2004 season, with the Tide coming out on top 197.725-197.025.
Following Friday's meet against the Wolverine's, Alabama returns home to Coleman Coliseum to close out the regular season Friday, March 11 against the LSU Tigers.\