Showdown on the gym mats

When Alabama, the nation's No. 1 ranked gymnastics team faces off against No. 4 Florida this Friday in Coleman Coliseum, Crimson Tide head coach Sarah Patterson knows interest will not only be avid, but nationwide.

"All eyes will be on the Coliseum this Friday," Patterson said. "Just like they were the first week of the season when we hosted the Super Six Challenge. This meet is a big deal."

Tickets for the meet, which gets underway at 7:30 p.m., are on sale now through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of the Coliseum, or online at www.rolltide.com.

In addition to being the highest ranked match-up of the regular season, this weekend's meet also features veteran coaches Sarah and David Patterson, now in their 26th season, against Gator mentor Rhonda Faehn, in her second year as a head coach.

"(Florida athletics director) Jeremy Foley hired that coaching staff with a very specific mandate, and that was to beat Alabama and Georgia and contend for a national title," Patterson said. "Rhonda has done a great job with that program. They beat us twice last year and beat Georgia at the Super Six Challenge earlier this year.

Stephanie Kite strikes a pose.

"They are definitely improved."

But that doesn't mean that Alabama is ready to roll over. The Tide may have lost its first two meetings against the Gators last season, but they rebounded quickly, winning the SEC Championship and finishing second at the NCAA Championships. The Gators were third at SECs and seventh at the NCAA Championships.

This year, the Gators finished second at the Super Six Challenge, behind Alabama and ahead of No. 2 ranked Georgia. They have a season high of 197.150 while the Tide posted its season best of 197.600 last weekend on the road against LSU.

Patterson has used the last two weeks, and meets against Penn State and LSU, to juggle her lineup and gain experience for several members of the Tide lineups, in addition to resting the likes of All-American senior Jeana Rice and sophomore NCAA vault champion Ashley Miles. And while building depth will benefit Alabama down the road, this meet will see Alabama play to its strengths.

"Oh yes, we'll have our best lineup on the floor," Patterson said.


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