Feb. 6, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the No. 7 Alabama gymnastics team going into its fifth meet of the season. The Crimson Tide faces its fourth consecutive top-10 showdown Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum when archrival Georgia, ranked fifth in this week's standings, comes calling.
This latest edition of Alabama vs. Georgia - long the best rivalry in gymnastics and among the best rivalries in all of collegiate athletics - is being billed as the "Battle of Champions" by UA head coach Sarah Patterson.
"We've won six national championships and Georgia has won 10, and going all the way back to the 1980s, we've known that if we want to win an NCAA Championship, we're going to have to go through them and if they want to win one, they have to get through us. Through all the years, that really hasn't changed."
The rivalry is also one of the reasons that Patterson chose to center this year's alumni weekend around Friday's meet.
"We have about 70 alumni coming back and I chose this weekend because I knew it would mean a lot to them to come back and see this meet and be a part rivalry again," Patterson said.
Among the Tide alumni slated to return are NCAA all-around champions Penney Hauschild Buxton, Dee Foster Worley and Meredith Willard Luber. Other NCAA champions scheduled to be on hand Friday include Morgan Dennis, Dana Dobransky Duckworth, Ashley Miles, Geralen Stack-Eaton and Kim Kelly Warren.
Alabama comes into this latest competition sporting a 9-1-0 record in its last ten meetings with Georgia. The lone loss during that stretch came last season in Athens, when the Bulldogs won 197.500-196.950 in early February.
In addition to taking on the nation's top teams, Alabama has also been facing off against the best individual gymnasts in the nation to open this season. After taking on the NCAA's No. 1 ranked all-arounders - Arkansas' Katherine Grable and LSU's Rheagan Courville - over the last two weeks, the Tide faces Georgia's Lindsey Cheek, who is ranked No. 1 on the uneven bars, this Friday.
Alabama comes into its fifth meet of 2014 led by a mixture of veterans and rookies. Senior All-American Sarah DeMeo and freshman Katie Bailey have gone in the all-around all four meets this season, while senior All-American Kim Jacob has gone all-around in three of four meets and has won six individual titles along the way.
Last week, at LSU, DeMeo, Jacob and senior All-American Diandra Milliner accounted for nearly half the Tide's routines with 11 while freshmen Bailey, Amanda Jetter, Aja Sims and Keely McNeer accounted for nine more, meaning the junior and sophomore classes picked up the remaining four.
"I think this year's freshmen have come in a lot like our seniors did in 2011," Patterson said. "We've had to rely on them for a lot of routines and for the most part they've come through. I think those seniors see a lot of themselves in this year's freshmen and are doing everything they can to help them come along."
Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.3622) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum, or online at RollTide.com. Fans can follow all the action via the Crimson Tide's Meet Central page, located on the main gymnastics page of RollTide.com. Links include a live video stream, live scoring and WVUA-FM's radio broadcast. Fans can also keep up with the Tide via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube by following BamaGymnastics.