The second ranked Florida gymnastics team opens its home schedule tonight with a meet against sixth ranked UCLA.
The Gators began their season last week by posting the third-highest score in the nation against Texas Woman’s University. Now, the Gators return home for their first meet under new coach Jenny Rowland.
In 2016’s home opener, Rowland will get a taste of how competitive these teams are; after all, Florida and UCLA are two of only six collegiate teams to earn an NCAA gymnastics title since 1982.
Ironically, UCLA won it’s first title in Florida’s O’Connell Center, which led to five more since 1997. Likewise, the Gators’ first of three consecutive national championships was earned at UCLA in 2013.
Returning Gator and All-American senior Bridget Sloan started the season on a high note, earning her eighth SEC Gymnast of the Week award after the win over TWU.
Even with five returning All-Americans, the Gators face a tough match up against UCLA.
The Bruins began their season at home with a narrow 196.30-196.175 victory over Alabama, a team ranked third in the preseason poll. UCLA has four All-Americans returning, including 2015 NCAA regional vault, bars, and beam titleholder Christine Peng-Peng Lee.
Despite the pressure for continued success, Coach Rowland knows her team will perform well if they relax and have fun during their routines. Along with veteran leadership, the Gators will look to freshmen like Alicia Boren and Peyton Ernst to make an impact. Boren posted a 9.900 on the balance beam last meet and Rowland says she looks poised for a breakout freshman season.
This meet is the only top-10 match up of the weekend, and Coach Rowland expects a warm welcome from the Gator faithful.
The action gets underway at 6:45 PM from the O’Connell Center.