Tide Gymnastics Edges Stanford

The No. 5 Alabama Gymnastics team held off No. 3 Stanford in the meet's final rotation with a season-high floor exercise score to beat the Cardinal 197.150-196.775 in front of 9,284 fans in Coleman Coliseum Friday night.

"This was our third meet in seven days and I'm just really pleased with the consistency that we've shown," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "In three meets, we've really had just one sub-par event and that would be the floor exercise at Penn State. I think tonight the ladies stepped up and did a great job for us."

Stanford was close going into the final rotation, trailing by just .200, and got closer through the first two routines for both schools, with the Crimson Tide's lead dropping to .050. But Alabama slammed the door shut with three consecutive 9.9-plus floor exercise routines to close out the meet, pushing the Tide to a new season high of 49.450 on the floor.

"It's a little nerve wracking sitting on the edge of your seat (every meet)," Patterson said. "But from a competitive standpoint, being in that environment the last three meets, coming down to the end, I think its huge because every championship meet will come down to the end. You have to finish strong."

Alabama's total was its second highest score of the season and closes out an intense three-meet in seven-days span for the Tide that included its season-high score of 197.35 last Friday against Auburn and its highest road score of the year, 196.625 at Penn State on Sunday.

Freshman Ashley Priess won the all-around, tying her career-high at 39.525, and the floor exercise with a career-high 9.95. Priess and freshmen Geralen Stack-Eaton shared top honors on the vault with matching 9..9s while sophomore Kayla Hoffman won the uneven bars with a 9.9 of her own. Stanford's Carly Janiga won the balance beam with a 9.9.

Alabama's 49.45 floor exercise rotation, which repeatedly brought the crowd roaring to its feet, was fueled by Priess' 9.95 and 9.925s from Stack-Eaton and junior Morgan Dennis. Junior Ricki Lebegern scored a 9.875 while senior Ashley O'Neal and freshman Caitlin Sullivan scored 9.775s to lead off the rotation.

"The crowd is always amazing," Patterson said. "I think they recognize and they know that these meets come down to the last two competitors, and it's a ‘sit on the edge of your seat and see what happens' environment."

As hot as Alabama's finish was, its start had the same crowd-pleasing fire. The Tide matched its season high of 49.425 on the vault, with Stack-Eaton getting the meet going by tying her career high with a 9.9. Priess came up in the third spot and scored a career-high 9.9 of her own while Lebgern, Hoffman and Dennis finished out the event with matching 9.875s.

Alabama scored a 49.225 on the uneven bars behind Hoffman's 9.9 and Priess' 9.875. Lebegern and Stack-Eaton both scored 9.825s on the event. It marked the eighth time in 10 meets the Tide has scored better than 49 on the bars. It also gave Alabama a .350 lead going into the second half of the meet.

Junior Casey Overton's lead-off 9.85 gave the Tide its highest balance beam score of the night, while the Tide's 49.050 team score gave Alabama a two-tenths lead on the Cardinal going into the last event.

The Crimson Tide closes out the regular season next Friday (March 13) in Coleman Coliseum against Oklahoma and UNC. Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum, and online at RollTide.com.

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