No. 11 Ranked Gymnastics downs No. 5 Auburn, 197.350-196.175

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Junior Morgan Dennis tied or bettered her career-high score on three events and in the all-around.
Junior Morgan Dennis tied or bettered her career-high score on three events and in the all-around.

Feb. 27, 2009

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 11 Alabama Gymnastics team beat No. 5 Auburn with a season-high score here in front of a sold-out and largely pink crowd in Coleman Coliseum, 197.350-196.175.

"We've worked really hard this week, and I think the ladies knew how special it was," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We were better than our performances the last two weekends, and the words for this week were just perseverance, passion and pride. That's what our theme was this week. We took those three words, and that's what we built on all week."

Alabama rebounded from two meets marred by falls and miscues with a total that, in addition to being its season high, is also the third highest mark in the nation so far this season and the Crimson Tide's highest score since posting a 197.375 against Auburn in March of 2007.

Friday night was also Alabama's fifth annual "Power of Pink" meet which raises awareness in the fight against breast cancer and the fourth year in a row that Alabama has sold out this event. It also marked the 97th time in a row that the Tide has beaten its in-state rival, a streak that spans 30 years.

"I would like to think that we bring out the best in Auburn, and they bring out the best in us," Patterson said. "It's good for college gymnastics, it's good for our state of Alabama, to have that kind of heated rivalry, because that competition that you saw on the floor tonight and the pressure that those kids were under, that's what we'll face at the SEC championship. Our kids will be prepared for it."

Four Alabama gymnasts went in the all-around, led by junior Morgan Dennis' career-high 39. 725. It was the Tide's highest all-around score since Jeana Rice, who was in the crowd for alumni night, scored a 39.85 at the 2004 SEC Championships. Rice was one of more than 40 members of the Alabama gymnastics family who returned for the meet.

Freshman Ashley Priess scored a career-high 39.425 while junior Ricki Lebegern, who has gone all-around every meet this season, scored a 39.275. Freshman Geralen Stack-Eaton, in the all-around for the first time this season, posted three strong scores before a stumble on the floor exercise put her all-around score at 38.75.

After tying or bettering her career mark on the two of her first three events of the night, Dennis put an exclamation point on the evening, scoring a 9.975 on the floor exercise to close out the meet. That score, plus a 9.925 from Priess pushed the Tide to a season-high 49.325.

Alabama got the night off to a scorching start with a season-high 49.425 on the vault. Stack-Eaton started the rotation off with a career-high 9.9, a score matched by sophomore Kayla Hoffman in just her second vault of the season. Lebegern scored a 9.85 while Priess posted a career-high 9.825. Dennis finished off the rotation by tying her career- high score of 9.95.

The Crimson Tide came back with a big score in its second event as well, tallying a season-high 49.325 on the uneven bars behind a 9.9 from Hoffman and career-high 9.925 from Dennis. It was Hoffman's first uneven bars routine in competition since shoulder surgery in the fall. Stack-Eaton got the Tide started with a 9.85, tying her career-best score.

Alabama just missed its season high on the balance beam, scoring a 49.275. After having to count falls on the beam in back-to-back meets coming into tonight, the team stayed strong Friday after freshman Caitlin Sullivan fell in the second position, hitting its next four routines in a row to close out the event. Dennis and Stack-Eaton both scored 9.875s while Priess anchored the rotation with a career-best 9.9.

Alabama goes right back to work, traveling to University Park, Pa. on Saturday and facing Penn State and Ohio State on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.