GYMNASTICS: Lutz Leads #4 Gators Past Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. - For the second-consecutive week, the number four ranked University of Florida gymnastics team needed a hit routine from its final performer to defeat one of the nation's perennial powers. This time it was sophomore Samantha Lutz that provided Florida with the clutch routine, hitting her balance beam performance to ensure the Gators of its first win over Georgia in Athens since the 1985 NCAA Southeast Regional.

It is even farther back in history for the last time UF won a dual meet in Georgia - Feb. 12, 1983. Florida won the meet with a final team score of 195.725 while the fifth-ranked GymDogs posted a 195.60.

Although the Gators trailed by two-tenths after the first rotation, UF took a half-point lead into the third rotation after the GymDogs were forced to count a fall in its bar total. The lead opened up to 1.175 points after the third rotation when UGA again had a fall and a break tallied toward its beam total. But the Gators were forced to count a fall toward their balance beam total for the first time this season and another fall would have given UGA the opportunity to take the win in front of a sell-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 9,951. But Lutz turned in a 9.75 on the beam to ensure that the GymDogs couldn't surpass the Gators with its final floor performer.

"Just positive thoughts were going through my head," Lutz said. "I worked hard all week and I thought 'There is no reason why I can't go up here and hit this routine.' I've done it a million times in practice and this was just one more time."

"It was very exciting for us to get the wins (over Alabama on Jan. 28 and Georgia), but we also know there is a lot of improvement that we need to make. We did not perform up to our potential tonight and for us to achieve our goals, we will need to compete better," Lutz continued. "We are happy that we were able to pull it together and come out with the victory tonight. We will work in practice to clean up the problems we had tonight so that we will be prepared for the end of the season."

The Gators opened the meet with its second-highest uneven bars total of the season, 49.075. Freshman Ashley Reed led UF by matching the Gators' season-best bar mark of 9.90 to claim her first collegiate event title. Lutz also turned in a 9.85 bar mark Friday to share second overall with UGA's Nikki Childs.

Vault produced another 49.075 event total for the Gators. Senior Orley Szmuch shared second overall in the final vault standings with UGA's Michelle Emmons at 9.875. Reed also turned in a 9.825 for UF. Georgia's Brittany Smith won the event title with her mark of 9.925.

Sophomore All-American Savannah Evans again led UF on the floor exercise, posting a 9.875 to tie for fourth overall as UF tallied a 49.15 on the event. Reed, debuting a new floor routine Friday, earned a collegiate-best 9.85. Szmuch, performing her first floor routine since the season opener, also posted a 9.85. UGA swept the floor event with Kelsey Ericksen, Katie Heenan and Michelle Emmons sharing first at 9.925.

The balance beam proved to be a difficult event for both teams Friday as both squads event total reflected a fall. Florida posted a season-low 48.425 on the event and was led by sophomore All-American Breanne King's 9.825, which placed fourth. Childs won the event at 9.925.

Ericksen won the all-around at 39.40 while Szmuch (39.275) and King (39.125) finished second and third, respectively.

Friday's meet will air tape-delayed on ESPN2 on Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m.

Florida returns home to play host to number 15 Auburn for a dual meet next Friday. Competition begins at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center and tickets are $4.00 for adults, while children 17 and under plus UF students with ID are admitted free.

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