March 13, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The Alabama Gymnastics team finished off the regular season Friday night with a gutsy 196.725 team score to win its tri-meet against No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 26 North Carolina. The Sooners finished with a 196.525 while the Tarheels tallied a 193.925.
For Alabama and Oklahoma, the meet came down to the very last competitor with the Tide needing a 9.85 from junior Morgan Dennis to secure the win. The All-American answered the call with a 9.975, bringing the crowd roaring to its feet and the Tide to a 49.425 team total on the floor exercise.
"Morgan has that capability," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "She hits a routine, she can go anywhere from 9.9 to 9.975 to 10. The thing we've worked really hard on this past week, because she has been drastically close to the boundary line, and that's an automatic tenth off, is staying in bounds. My words to her were `Stand up on your takeoffs and dig in on your landings'."
Dennis' score capped sterling floor performances from the freshman duo of Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess who scored 9.9 and 9.925 respectively to help close out the Sooners.
In addition to winning the floor exercise, Dennis also won the all-around, totaling a 39.550. Ricki Lebegern, who did not go all-around for the first time this season, won the balance beam. Sophomore Kayla Hoffman won the vault and tied with Priess for top honors on uneven bars.
"Ricki's ankle has been a little bit sore and she had a really hard week," Patters said. "I just felt like to be at our best for the SEC Championships we really needed to not overwork her tonight. I felt like there were other people who could step in and do the job. I thought that was important tonight."
The Crimson Tide started off strong with a season-high 49.450 on the vault, led by a 9.95 from sophomore Kayla Hoffman and 9.9s from Priess and Dennis. Stack-Eaton and junior Ricki Lebegern posted matching 9.85s on the vault.
Scores of 9.9 from Hoffman and Priess pushed Alabama to a solid 49.2 on the uneven bars. Dennis added a 9.875 and sophomore Megan Mashburn added a career-high 9.775.
The Tide opened the door for the Sooners on the balance beam, struggling to a 48.650. Lebegern scored a 9.875 to lead the Tide while freshman Caitlin Sullivan came away with a 9.825 and Dennis scored a 9.8.
It was "Senior Night" in Coleman Coliseum as the crowd of 8,746 honored Brittany Magee, Amanda Montgomery and Ashley O'Neal in their last regular season meet for the Crimson Tide. O'Neal made the most of her final regular-season meet in Tuscaloosa, getting the Tide's meet-deciding floor exercise rotation off to a strong start with a season-high 9.85.
Alabama starts the postseason next Saturday at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Nashville, Tenn. The Tide finished tied for second at last year's SECs.