The crowd exploded as Kim Jacob nailed her floor routine.
Her teammates, clad in sparkly crimson sweat suits, swallowed her whole in one big hug as the junior received a score of 9.9, clinching her second career all-around victory with a final score of 39.375. Her floor routine put her over the top of LSU’s Jessica Savona. The two were tied heading into the meet’s final rotation.
Jacob’s performance propelled No. 6 Alabama to win its home opener Friday night against No. 5 LSU by a score of 196.575-195.525 in front of 13,912 adoring fans at Coleman Coliseum, most of which were little girls.
“As I looked up and saw all the people here, I was so proud for this team,” said head coach Sarah Patterson. “And I think they really enjoyed having the opportunity to compete in front of those fans.”
Jacob is the heart of this team. A junior, she was selected by her teammates to be a part of the leadership group Patterson has implemented.
“She is the hardest worker on the team,” Patterson said. “We have a lot of great leaders, but when we selected a leadership team, she received more votes than anyone ever since we’ve been doing it. I think she got every vote except her own. And to me, when someone steps forward like that and shows you that kind of example, and that’s why our program has been successful, is because we have leaders like that.”
Patterson said Jacob has transformed herself into a different kind of athlete this season, thanks to strength coach Travis Illian.
“She’s stronger now than she’s ever been,” Patterson said. “She has more power. She’s always had great finesse, but I have to give [Illian] credit because he’s totally transformed her in that area.”
Led by Jacob, Alabama took a fast, commanding lead and never let up. In the first rotation, the Crimson Tide had a 1-point lead after it scored a 49.50 on the vault. Sophomore Kayla Williams and junior Diandra Milliner each received scores of 9.925. LSU on the other hand had a few hiccups on the uneven bars, scoring a 48.4 to start.
The Tide rolled right through their second rotation on the bars thanks to Ashley Sledge, Ashley Priess and Sarah DeMeo, who all received scores of 9.9 to help Alabama gain a total of 49.325 points in that event.
Alabama followed with what Patterson deemed a "tentative" performance on the balance beam. And though they started off strong on the floor exercises, both Marissa Gutierrez and Milliner fell, which gave the Tigers the advantage in that event.
"In our last tumbling passes, I thought we were a little slow," Patterson said. "That was the event I said from the beginning that 'this is where we're going to get better over the course of the season.'"
Despite a few slip ups at the end, which Patterson said can be fixed with better conditioning, the Tide feels good about how they competed.
“We should feel really optimistic from where we go from here," said Priess. "The errors were obvious and something that's very feasible for us to work on and improve on. Overall, I feel really hopeful for this team. I think we have a long ways to go still, but I think that we're ready for it and we're ready to attack it."
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