Illinois Appears On Tide Schedule

After months of preparation and training, the 2008 Alabama Gymnastics team gets its season underway Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum against the Illinois Fighting Illini.

"We're ready to get started," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "The ladies are at the point where we're probably won't get much better without seeing where we are in competition.

The 2008 season marks Sarah and David Patterson's 30th as Alabama's coaches, a tenure that has produced four NCAA Championships and 25 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances as well as 21 individual NCAA title winners and 223 All-America honors.

While Alabama and the Pattersons have seen Illinois several times over the years at regional championships, this will be the first regular season meeting between the two teams. The Illini have been to Tuscaloosa before, making their last trip in 1998 for the NCAA Central Region Championships.

"Their coach, Bob Starkell, expressed an interest in coming down here for a meet and it was a chance for us to get a new face on the schedule, and a team that is on the rise," Patterson said. "They're kind of like us in that they're young, but they have a lot of experience in the sophomore and junior classes."

Alabama, ranked sixth in the pre-season coaches' poll, is 7-1 in home openers since 2000 and opened last season with a win over Big-12 power Oklahoma. Illinois finished up last season ranked 20th and is number 23 in this year's pre-season poll.

The Tide's lineup is made up mostly of familiar faces, returning all but one routine from last year's NCAA Championships squad. There are 13 veterans and three freshmen on this season's roster, including two NCAA champions and four All-Americas.

All-Americas Kassi Price, Brittany Magee and Morgan Dennis could see action in the all-around against Illinois, as could defending Southeastern Conference balance beam champion Ricki Lebegern. Dennis, the defending NCAA floor exercise champion, will anchor the Tide's vault and floor exercise lineup. Newcomer Kayla Hoffman, who started out her Tide career with a 4.0 grade point average this fall, could also go all-around Friday.

Season and single meet tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at

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