This time around, the Tide will face Georgia in a dual meet format, as opposed to the six-team, four ring circus atmosphere of the Challenge. The meet, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Stegeman Coliseum, will pit the No. 9 Crimson Tide against the second ranked Lady Dogs.
"In terms of competitive experience, Georgia has a bit of an edge right now," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "We're going into our second meet this weekend while they're on meet four. You could tell at the Super Six that Georgia and Nebraska had already competed. They had already worked out the first meet jitters. Now we've done that as well. Last weekend did us a world of good in just getting us started."
The Crimson Tide is young this season with seven freshmen on its 14-gymnast roster. Last weekend seven of the Tide's 24 routines came from the freshmen and another six routines came from the sophomore class.
That's not to say that the upperclassmen aren't pulling their weight. Junior All-American Jeana Rice won the all-around, balance beam and uneven bars at the Super Six Challenge. She posted a career-best 39.700 in the all-around. She was named Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Week for her efforts.
"Jeana looked great out there last weekend," Patterson said. "But that comes as no surprise to us. She has had a great fall, working really hard in preparation for this season."
To open the season, Alabama used nine athletes with only Rice going on all four events. This weekend, with the possible addition of freshmen Dana Filetti and Larissa Stewart to the uneven bars lineup, the Tide could use as many as 11 gymnasts.
Another possible addition is senior Kristin Sterner to the vault lineup. A change in the style of apparatus used in collegiate competition, forced the nine-time All-American to switch from the style of vault she had done since childhood to a Yurchenko vault, which involves a round off on the runway before hitting the spring board.
"Kristin has learned this style vault faster than anyone I've ever worked with, or even heard of," assistant coach Bryan Raschilla said. "It's just been amazing. We will be very excited to get her out there whether it be this weekend or not."
The Tide is in the midst of a four-meet road swing, the longest stretch of road meets Alabama has ever had to open a season. Next weekend, the Tide travels to Fayetteville, Ark. to compete against the first year University of Arkansas program and then on to Lincoln, Neb., site of the 2003 NCAA Championships, to take on Nebraska.
Alabama opens its home season Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. against the No. 4 ranked Michigan Wolverines. It will mark the first time Alabama has faced Michigan in Tuscaloosa during the regular season. Season tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) or online at www.rolltide.com.