Tide Gymnastics Hosts Sooners

A very young Alabama Gymnastics team, ranked No. 4 nationally in the preseason coaches' poll, takes on No. 10 Oklahoma this Friday in Coleman Coliseum to start out the 2007 season.

"We have one senior and two juniors among our 15 gymnasts," Sarah Patterson, in her 29th season as Alabama's head coach, said. "This is the youngest team we've had in quite a while, since the very early days, but I think everyone will discover very quickly that we'll be exciting to watch."

Alabama opens the season at home for the third time since 2000. It also marks the first time since 1999 that the Crimson Tide has opened the season with in a dual meet after competing in the Super Six Challenge for the past seven openers, winning four.

"While we didn't plan it this way, I think with such a young team, opening at home in a dual meet will be good for us," Patterson said. "Competing in front of our crowd will obviously give us a lift."

Competing in front of Alabama's crowds, which averaged a Southeastern Conference record 12,652 fans per meet last season, will be a new experience for the Tide's six rookies, three of whom could see action in the all-around Friday.

"Our freshmen will be called upon early and often this season," Patterson said. "Three of them, Kassi Price, Ricki Lebegern and Morgan Dennis, could go on all four events. Overall, three-quarters of our routines could come from the freshman and sophomore class."

And while Alabama will be dependent on a veteran coaching staff and its youth for success in 2007, Oklahoma's makeup is the flip side of the coin. The Sooners have a veteran team with a one of the nation's top young talents in her first year as their head coach. K.J. Kindler, who took Iowa State to the NCAA Super Six Team Finals last season, is in her first year as the Sooner's head coach.

As a team, the Sooners were last in Tuscaloosa for the 2004 Super Six Challenge while Kindler brought her Iowa State team to the Capstone in 2005 for both the Tide's home opener and the NCAA Central Region Championships. Season and single meet gymnastics tickets are on sale through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) or online at RollTide.com.

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