March 16, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The No. 4 Alabama gymnastics team closed out its regular-season with a 197.625-194.075 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels at home in front of 9,165 fans Friday night. It was Alabama's third highest score of the season and its sixth 197-plus mark in its last seven meets.
"I think tonight was a good balance," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We did some things really well and we have some things that we can work on for the postseason. I thought that this was a really good step forward. We wanted to take tonight and help put ourselves in the best position we could be in for next week. I think mentally they probably feel really good about tonight."
The Crimson Tide was led by senior Ashley Priess, who closed out her Coleman Coliseum tenure with a career-best 39.625 to win the all-around while senior Geralen Stack-Eaton was second with a 39.450. Prior to the meet Priess, Stack-Eaton and Rachel Terry were honored as part of the Senior Night celebration.
"If you look at pictures from their freshmen year to their senior year, they were young girls and now their young women," Patterson said. "They have come so far in so many areas. I don't think there are too many classes that can say everybody in their class is an All-American, Scholastic All-American and they've won all these championships."
Sophomore Diandra Milliner won the vault while Priess and junior Ashley Sledge tied for top honors on the uneven bars. Sophomore Sarah DeMeo led the way on the beam and Stack-Eaton closed out the night by winning the floor exercise.
While the Tide had a good night on the other three events, it was exceptional on the balance beam where it posted a 49.525, its highest score of the season and fourth highest all-time. In addition to DeMeo's winning score of 9.95, three other UA gymnasts scored 9.9 or better. Freshman Kayla Williams, in her first beam routine in the Tide's competitive beam lineup, scored a 9.9, which Stack-Eaton matched one routine later. Priess anchored the beam lineup with a 9.925.
"All week we have been practicing our mental toughness and being fierce," Priess said. "We have such an incredible beam team but we haven't put all six together at the same time. I think we finally believe it and we're working together to create an incredible performance."
Alabama scored a 49.475 on the vault to start the meet, led by Milliner's 9.95 and Priess' 9.925. On the uneven bars, Priess and Sledge scored 9.9s, pacing the Tide to a 49.275 team score.
Despite its last two home meets coming at the start and end of spring break, Alabama averaged 12,827 fans per meet this season, the second highest average in program history and the third highest in any women's sport this year.
Alabama gets the postseason started Saturday, March 24 at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Duluth, Ga.