TUSCALOOSA, Ala. This was a different team. A week after the Alabama Gymnastics team fell seven times over the course of two meets on the West Coast, the Crimson Tide had its best performance of the season, beating No. 20 Penn State, 197.3-194.675.
“I think the ladies did exceptionally well,” Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. “I told them right before we went into the locker room I don’t expect us to be absolutely perfect but I expect us to have great intensity and have a great meet.’ I think that’s what we did.”
The sophomore trio of Morgan Dennis, Kassi Price and Ricki Lebegern swept the top-3 spots in the all-around with Price winning after scoring a 39.375. Dennis and Lebegern tied for second at 39.375. It was Lebegern’s second highest score of the season.
“We knew it was Spring Break and I just told them it didn’t matter if there were 15,000 fans or 700 like there were in Stanford,” Patterson said. “It didn’t matter. The people that were here, we were going to put on a show and entertain them and we were going to show them we were a team.”
Price and freshman Kayla Hoffman shared top honors on the uneven bars while Hoffman and Dennis shared first place on the vault. Hoffman closed out the meet with a win on the floor exercise while sophomore Casey Overton, junior Brittany Magee and Dennis tied for first on the balance beam. In addition to scoring its highest total of the season, tonight’s meet marked the first time this year that Alabama has posted above a 49 on all four apparatus.
“I really think after our performance out in California, we really stepped it up in the gym,” Price said. “We really wanted to prove to ourselves that we were a very capable team and I think we proved that tonight. On Tuesday and Wednesday during practice we trained with as much intensity as we possibly could. I think that really built up the confidence within ourselves and within each other. That really helped us out with our performance tonight.”
Alabama finished off the night with a 49.425 on the floor exercise led by a 9.925 from Hoffman and 9.9s from senior Kaitlin White and Price. Junior Ashley O’Neal posted a season-best 9.85 to lead the rotation off, a score matched by Lebegern in the second spot.
“That was Kaitlin’s career high on the floor exercise,” Patterson said. “I went over to her and said isn’t it awesome that your hard work paid off. You were rewarded for that. You performed the best routine that you ever had and on top of that, you received the score it deserved.’ I can’t say enough about how she stepped up.”
Alabama started the night off with a 49.4 on the vault behind matching 9.925s from Dennis and Hoffman in the last two positions. Lebegern posted a 9.875 and Price hit for a 9.85. Magee posted a 9.825 while Overton started things off with a 9.8.
“We still have some areas we can improve on but I thought we competed the way we practiced,” Patterson said. “I thought we did a great job on floor exercise and vault tonight. We made marked improvement on bars and beam, we aren’t perfect but we made great improvement tonight. It shows the practices we had this week.”
On the uneven bars, the Tide posted a 49.225 behind 9.9s from Hoffman and Price. Lebegern and White both scored 9.825s and Dennis started things off with a 9.775. Hoffman tied her career-best score. Alabama posted its second highest balance beam score of the season, going 49.250 behind 9.875s from Overton in the leadoff spot, Magee in the four spot and Dennis in the anchor position. Lebegern turned in a 9.825 and Price went 9.8. Dennis and Overton tied their career-best marks while Magee tied her season-best score.
Alabama closes out the regular season next Friday with Auburn at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available on RollTide.com or through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum.