By (Ben Stansell)

On a night in which several Alabama gymnasts set career highs and the team recorded its best scores of the season on vault and uneven bars, coach Dana Duckworth was not satisfied.

Duckworth always preaches that improving is a process, and Alabama’s 196.925 – 196.375 win over Kentucky in Coleman Coliseum was a perfect example of that concept.

“Of course we’re delighted because a ‘W’ is always nice, but we know we can do better.” Duckworth said. “We know we left some stuff on the table.”

The Crimson Tide stormed out of the gate, notching a season high 49.3 on vault. After strong performances from the top of the vault lineup, freshman Lexi Graber posted a career high 9.9. Senior Nickie Guerrero followed Graber’s strong performance by matching her with a 9.9 of her own.

Alabama continued to heat up on uneven bars, delivering a performance that Duckworth best described as “lit.”

Behind a career high 9.975 from sophomore Shea Mahoney and a season high 9.925 from Mackenzie Brannan, Alabama posted the sixth highest uneven bars score in school history: 49.550.

“That was a beautiful bar performance,” Duckworth said. “Stick after stick, hand stand after hand stand – very strong.”

Mahoney’s performance even garnered a perfect 10.0 from one judge, but averaged out at a 9.975.

“It was really exciting,” Mahoney said. “I’ve been training really, really hard every day working on the little details, all the hand stands and fighting for every dismount. I just wanted to go out there and hit a great routine for my team.”

When Alabama transitioned into the third rotation, the momentum it had built on vault and bars came to a screeching halt. Riddled with near falls and one actual fall, the Crimson Tide scored a disappointing 48.85 on the event. Although Guerrero finished beam with a 9.9, she was dissatisfied with Alabama’s performance on the event.

“We had a lot of stuff left on the table,” Guerrero said. “That’s not who we are as a beam team.”

It appeared as though Alabama’s struggles would leach into floor exercise before Graber recaptured some momentum with her floor exercise debut, a 9.825. With the addition of a floor routine, the one event she had not previously competed in during a meet, Graber competed as an all-arounder for the first time in her career.

Although Alabama lacked consistency overall against Kentucky, Guerrero did not. Once again she was the Crimson Tide’s anchor on floor, scoring her third 9.9 of the meet.

“I definitely just want to go out there for my team and really hit for the people that went up in front of me,” Guerrero said. “My team is just my rock. People say I’m the rock, but really they’re my rock.”

Wynter Childers, who has been an all-around performer for Alabama numerous times this season, did not compete for the second straight week, still recovering from a wrist and ankle injury.

With the win over Kentucky, Alabama’s record improves to 4-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.

Even after playing its fifth top-10 opponents through seven meets this year, Alabama’s schedule does not lighten up. The Crimson Tide will travel to Auburn to face the Tigers next Friday night.

…read more

Source:: The Crimson White Sports