By (Matthew Speakman)

Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth knew her freshmen would have nerves heading into their first home meet against No. 1 LSU. So, when freshman Wynter Childers slipped off of the balance beam on Friday, Duckworth and the rest of the team wanted to pick her back up.

“When Wynter came off, I knew she was going to be disappointed, just knowing her personality,” Duckworth said. “The first thing I said was ‘the next second is more important, you have to have your teammates’ back and you have to let it go.’”

Many of the freshman made their home debuts for the No. 4 Crimson Tide in its 197.575-197.1 loss to the Tigers. Freshman Maddie Desch, who scored a 9.8 in the vault, believes Childers will have no trouble shaking off the fall.

“We all know what Wynter is capable of,” Desch said. “We all know she will come back stronger next week. It wasn’t her time there, but I know she’ll work hard and she’ll make sure that won’t happen again.”

Coming back from Childers’ fall was not the only challenge for Alabama. Facing the No. 1 team comes with its own battles. LSU got off to a hot start when Ashleigh Gnat posted a perfect 10 in the vault, leading the Tigers to a 49.6 in the event.

Gnat was a first-team All-American on the vault last season, so it was no surprise to see her perform well.

“We’ve seen her do it over and over, she has some amazing gifts,” Duckworth said. “They have a lot of power on that team. It is something that is the signature of their team.”

Alabama opened up the meet with a 9.200 on the vault- up from last week’s 49.0 at Oklahoma. Duckworth stressed vault landings all week, but said Alabama needs to improve all-around as the season goes on.

“The landings on every event are always the difference maker,” she said. “…What’s exciting is we’re only going to get better. Landings, everywhere, are key.”

Alabama’s first electrifying moment came in the next event, when junior Kiana Winston posted the team’s first 9.9 or better on the uneven bars, scoring a 9.95. Many members of the team were excited to hear the home fans behind them against LSU. They knew they needed a big moment to get the crowd on its feet.

After her routine, Winston said the feeling of being in front of the home fans started to kick in.

“It was really cool to hear the crowd cheer really loud,” she said. “We hadn’t really heard them all night. Then, to hear them cheer really loud, it really felt like a real home meet then.”

Winston’s 9.95 in the uneven bars was not the only big moment of her performance. In the floor routine, she posted a 9.95- the best score for the Crimson Tide.

The floor routine was Alabama’s strongest event of the night. The team posted a 9.375, and Winston was a big reason why.

“I knew the five people before me had done a great job,” Winston said. “Just going out there and topping the floor rotation off was really fun.”

Alabama ultimately came up short against the Tigers, but Duckworth believes the team has a lot to take away from the meet. Next up, Alabama faces Missouri on the road on Jan. 20.

For the Crimson Tide, it is all about building on each performance.

“We have to be proud of what we did,” Duckworth said. “The mental toughness we will continue to develop over time will stem from the things that I keep saying, having a great attitude and giving your best.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports