Feb. 24, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -
After the first gymnast in its balance beam lineup fell, the No. 3 ranked Alabama gymnastics team hit its next five routines in a row to beat the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La., 197.025-196.575.
"I thought we had a very consistent performance on all four events," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We had one mistake on the last event, the first routine up, but it's exactly what happened in our intrasquad this week. Our ladies were focused, they were prepared, they stepped up and they had Diandra (Milliner)'s back with a great beam performance."
The Crimson Tide used its highest road score of the season to beat the Tigers and go undefeated in regular-season Southeastern Conference competition for the first time since 1991. The only unbeaten and untied team in the nation, Alabama improved to 9-0-0 overall and 6-0-0 in SEC competition.
"More than anything else, we kept our mental focus tonight, we didn't drift, and we did what we had to do to win the meet," Patterson said. "A 197 on the road is awesome. I thought we earned every tenth of a point and LSU did a great job, producing one of their best scores of the season. I think that's just how great the SEC is."
Leading by more than four-tenths of a point after three rotations, the tension mounted when sophomore Diandra Milliner fell from the beam for the first time in her Tide career.
With nearly 4,000 LSU fans suddenly energized by the chance of a win, sophomore Kim Jacob came up next for the Tide and calmly hit her routine for a 9.875. She was followed by junior Marissa Gutierrez's 9.775 and sophomore Sarah DeMeo, who tied her season-high score in the fourth spot with a 9.9.
Senior Geralen Stack-Eaton added a 9.875 before Ashley Priess came up in the sixth and final position with the meet on the line. The senior clinched the Tide's perfect SEC regular season with a meet-best 9.925, pushing the Tide to a 49.350, its second highest beam score of the season.
"I think that's what teamwork is all about," Patterson said. "We've won a national championship after our first beam competitor, one of our most consistent gymnasts, fell. It's having faith in the others. Not only did we do a great job in picking Diandra up tonight, I thought each of the ladies on the beam, those five routines were among the best they've done this year."
Alabama started the night off with a solid rotation on the uneven bars, posting a 49.150 behind matching meet-high scores of 9.875 from Stack-Eaton and Priess. On the vault, Gutierrez and Milliner both scored 9.900 to pace the Tide to a 49.3. Led by meet-best 9.9s from Milliner and Stack-Eaton, Alabama posted a 49.225 on the floor exercise.
"I thought our team energy and cohesiveness were outstanding tonight," Patterson said. "Our ladies stayed in the `A' zone all the way through the meet. There is a difference between competing in front of 15,000 fans as we did last weekend and 4,000 fans and I thought the ladies did a good job of adjusting."
Alabama remains to the road next weekend, traveling to Norman, Okla., to take on Oklahoma on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m.