Alabama Gymnasts Home To Florida

The No. 6 Alabama gymnastics team returns to Coleman Coliseum tonight (Friday, Feb. 3) after two weeks on the road, facing No. 3 Florida starting at 7:30 p.m.

"We're excited to be back home and to have another opportunity to compete in front of our fans and our students," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "Auburn had a great crowd and atmosphere last week, but there is nothing better than competing in front of our fans. They're the best in the world."

Alabama drew 14,501 fans to its opening meet against Georgia, marking the its largest opening-night home crowd since drawing an SEC and Alabama record 15,162 fans for the Florida meet on Jan. 20, 2006. It was also the ninth largest crowd in UA gymnastics history.

Tickets for Friday's clash are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at Fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance.

Both the Crimson Tide (5-0-0 overall, 2-0-0 SEC) and the Gators (6-0-0, 2-0-0 SEC) are undefeated coming into the matchup. Alabama is coming off a 196.325-196.250 win at Auburn. Florida scored a 197.775 to win its home four-way meet last Friday that included then No. 1 ranked Arkansas. The Gator's score is the highest in the nation this season and the fifth highest in Florida history.

While Alabama holds a decided edge in the all-time series, the rivalry has been balanced during the regular season over the last nine years, with the home team winning each meet. Alabama fell 197.550-195.450 last year in Gainesville. It was Alabama's only loss of the year before going on to win the NCAA, NCAA Regional and Southeastern Conference Championships.

"Last year's meet in Gainesville was definitely a turning point for us," Patterson said. "I don't have any doubt that Friday is going to be another tough meet. I had Florida No. 1 on my preseason ballot. I think they are the most talented team in the country."

Alabama is led by senior Ashley Priess, who has anchored Alabama's uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise in each of the Tide's first three meets this season, and junior Ashley Sledge, who has won the vault in each of the last two meets. Senior Geralen Stack-Eaton, who scored a 10.0 on the vault in the Tide's first meet, was sidelined for the Auburn meet after an awkward landing in warm ups, and is still day-to-day going into Friday's meet.

Florida has four gymnasts ranked in the top 25 in the all-around – Alaina Johnson at No. 1, Ashanée Dickerson at No. 13, Marissa King at No. 15 and Kytra Hunter at No. 21.

The Alabama-Florida meet will also feature a large variety of promotions and giveaways - from iPod Shuffles and t-shirts to gift cards to local restaurants and gas cards. There will also be giveaways geared specifically to UA students, including a laptop and two $50 gift cards.

For every score of 9.8 or better by an Alabama gymnast during the Tide's first three home meets, Tuscaloosa Toyota is donating $200 toward assistant coach Dana Duckworth's ReadBAMARead foundation which was created to help restock school libraries that were destroyed during April's devastating tornado. Tuscaloosa Toyota donated $3600 to ReadBAMARead after the Tide's home opener against Georgia.

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