The Battle Plan

March 26, 2014

Yet Another SEC Gymnastics Title!
Spring Break is upon us! It gives me a chance to assess how things are going for the Crimson Tide right now, and I am pleased to report that our teams are doing quite well!

Last weekend was another significant one for our entire Athletics Department when we picked up another SEC championship. Our outstanding gymnastics team won its eighth conference title in dramatic fashion on Saturday in Birmingham. We have won a total of 82 SEC team titles in our athletics history, 61 by men's teams and 21 by women's teams.

Coach Sarah Patterson's team showed the grit and determination that has become typical of her Crimson Tide teams, winning the event with a huge final rotation. Alabama edged top-ranked Florida and second-ranked LSU to take the trophy, trailing by .125 going into the last rotation and headed to the uneven bars while the Gators went to the floor exercise. It took a remarkable six scores of 9.9 or better in succession to post a 49.650, setting a school record on the uneven bars to surpass the Gators, who scored 49.350 on the floor exercise.

There certainly was no margin for error. It is truly amazing how well our team consistently rises to the occasion through a special combination of outstanding talent, competitive spirit, and inspirational coaching. And I have no doubt that the crowd of almost 9,000 at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center helped our ladies come through in the clutch.

Now it's on to the NCAA Regional in Seattle for the Tide. Our team will enter the Seattle Regional as the top seed among the six teams at this site, with action to be contested on Saturday, April 5. Alabama will join Nebraska, Boise State, Washington, Denver and Brigham Young in the competition. The top two teams in each regional will advance to the NCAA Championships, to be held in Birmingham April 18-20 (get tickets here: http://gymnasticschamps.com/).

Congratulations to Coach Patterson, her staff and our amazing gymnasts as they continue to build on their incredible winning tradition!

7 Teams Nationally Ranked
Our teams continue to make their mark, ranking in the top 20 nationally in seven sports this week. Here's a look at Alabama teams that are nationally-ranked this week:

Team Ranking
Men's Golf1st
Gymnastics4th
Softball5th
Women's Tennis6th
Men's Track10th
Women's Golf12th
Men's Swimming14th

Two Big Wins Over the Gators

The overall prowess of the SEC in all sports is truly amazing! I think we often take for granted the level of outstanding competition that all of our teams face on a consistent basis throughout the year. Six SEC teams are among the 36 teams selected to compete in the Gymnastics Regionals next week. The three SEC teams selected for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament all are in this week's Sweet Sixteen. SEC schools are perennially ranked among the nation's best in all-sports rankings. It is truly the most competitive conference in the country. Last weekend, two of our Alabama teams took on outstanding Florida Gators teams and came away with victories that could very well define their seasons.

In tennis, our outstanding women's team led by Coach Jenny Mainz beat No. 5 Florida, 4-3, at the Alabama Tennis Stadium. The win was the first in program history for the Crimson Tide over the Gators, as Florida came in with a 37-match winning streak over Alabama. "We made history today," Jenny said. "I'm not sure words can describe the feeling. This is a testament to all who have played here. I am so proud of this team and the way they stepped it up and took the match."

With the win, our ladies now are 15-2 overall and 7-0 in Southeastern Conference play. It was a tight battle against the Gators all the way. With the match tied at 3-3, our doubles team of Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe battled back from a 9-7 deficit to win the clinching match by a 12-10 score. The outstanding fan support our team receives at home matches certainly made a difference in one of the most significant victories in the history of that program. Congratulations to Coach Mainz and her players!

At about the same time down in Gainesville, our softball team under the leadership of Coach Pat Murphy completed a series victory over No. 1-ranked Florida. As successful as our softball program has been in recent years, winning a series in Gainesville is hard to do. The resurgence of our senior pitching ace, Jaclyn Traina, was a major highlight of this milestone achievement.

Jaclyn has battled back from injuries ever since leading us to the 2012 national title. Against the Gators, she picked up two impressive victories in the circle while allowing only one earned run over 14.0 innings. She deservedly was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week, NFCA Co-National Player of the Week and the SEC Pitcher of the Week.

Start Making Plans for April 18-20

The weekend of April 18-20 will be a very significant and busy one for our sports teams, so we all need to start making plans now. We will be stretched thin, but I know the Alabama fan base will respond to the challenge and support as many of our teams as possible.

As I mentioned above, our gymnastics team hopes to be in the running for Coach Sarah Patterson and Alabama's seventh national title at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, to be held at the BJCC in Birmingham.

And our women's golf team will be competing at the SEC Championships at Greystone Country Club in Birmingham, as Coach Mic Potter and his team shoot for their second consecutive SEC title and third overall.

Also, our annual Golden Flake A-Day Spring Football Game will be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, April 19, at 1 p.m. We are excited about adding some new opportunities to enrich your experience at A-Day this year. In addition to a full day of activities around campus, we have arranged to allow post-game field access for all fans for the first time at A-Day. And as a bit of trivia, I learned recently that Bryant-Denny Stadium is the second-most valuable structure in the state, valued at $740 million. So as we enter the stadium and walk on the field, it is neat to think about what a special place we are in, and it is important to appreciate the remarkable history that has been made in the past by our great players and coaches ... and still is being made today.

As always, admission will be free to the public. But this year we have added several experience and seating upgrades for purchase available at rolltide.expapp.com to enable our fans to see and utilize parts of the stadium they may have never experienced. These include South Field Suite, North and South Zone tickets, pregame locker room, pregame field access and other special options. The experience upgrades are available while supplies last.

The Mercedes-Benz Fan Fest will take place pregame and will open at 9 a.m. outside the North End Zone (near the corner of University Blvd. and Wallace Wade Ave.). At approximately 11:15 a.m. on A-Day, head coach Nick Saban and 2013 captains AJ McCarron, C.J. Mosley and Kevin Norwood will take part in the annual Walk of Fame Ceremony at Denny Chimes.

Stadium gates open at 11 a.m. A-Day posters featuring Coach Saban, members of this year's team and the 2014 schedule will be given away at the gates to the first 12,500 fans through the turnstiles. Special commemorative A-Day programs will be available at a cost of $5 and will include a player poster, coupons from sponsors and a chance to win game tickets.

This year's halftime entertainment will feature Tony Hoard and the K-9 Crew. The performance, which has been featured on "America's Got Talent", "Good Morning America" and "Animal Planet", includes high-flying aerial tricks and Frisbee-catching flips choreographed to upbeat music by Hoard and his group of rescue dogs.

A-Day is the most vivid example of the power and passion of our fan base. Our fans truly set the trend for the nation with this event. Alabama leads the nation in spring game attendance over the last seven years with an average of 84,978 fans per game during that period. The largest A-Day crowd in school history came in 2011 (92,310). In Coach Saban's first year of 2007, the stadium was at full capacity prior to expansion (92,138).

This Weekend's Action

As we continue to see every week, your participation and support makes a tremendous difference - often the difference between victory and defeat. So, you should not miss out on these upcoming events. Here's a summary of this weekend's action:

Thursday, March 27

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All DayMen's Swimming & DivingNCAA ChampionshipsAustin, Texas

Friday, March 28

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
3:30 p.m.Women's TennisVanderbiltNashville, Tenn.
5 p.m.Men's TennisVanderbiltTuscaloosa
6:30 p.m.SoftballLSUTuscaloosa
6:35 p.m.BaseballOle MissTuscaloosa
All DayMen's Swimming & DivingNCAA ChampionshipsAustin, Texas

Saturday, March 29

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
2 p.m.SoftballLSUTuscaloosa
6:05 p.m.BaseballOle MissTuscaloosa
All DayMen's Swimming & DivingNCAA ChampionshipsAustin, Texas
All DayTrack & FieldYellow Jacket InviteAtlanta, Ga.

Sunday, March 30

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
12 p.m.Women's TennisKentuckyLexington, Ky.
1 p.m.Men's TennisKentuckyTuscaloosa
1:05 p.m.BaseballOle MissTuscaloosa
1:05 p.m.SoftballLSUTuscaloosa

If you are in Tuscaloosa, Austin, Nashville, Atlanta or Lexington, please get out and support the Tide. Let's do all we can do to Keep the Tide Rising!

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