On Friday, March 5, the No. 1 Florida Gators will close out their season, on the road, against the No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide. In a meet that can secure the Gators’ spot as the sole SEC champions of the regular season, Head Coach Jenny Rowland and her team will be looking to set themselves up for the SEC Championships two weekends afterward.
— Carson Cashion (@carsoncashion) March 3, 2021
The Rolling Tide
Head Coach Dana Duckworth and her Alabama team boast a six and one record; their lone loss coming in Athens, Georgia, at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs. Furthermore, while the Tide did not score as high as the Gators did against LSU, ‘Bama did win by a larger margin of .400 compared to the Gators’ .100. Alabama scored their highest point total of the season in their matchup against No. 8 Arkansas last week, making it clear that the team is riding high.
Alabama has seen gymnasts lead both the team and the nation in various events this year. Sophomore Luisa Blanco has performed especially well lately, winning the all-around title in the Arkansas meet as well as place fourth in the nation for all-around gymnasts. Her success on the balance beam has helped her team rise to the No. 4 balance beam rotation in the nation (Florida is ranked No. 1.) As both teams prepare for the SEC Championships in Huntsville, Alabama, the hosting Crimson Tide are not a team the Gators can look past.
Gators Look to Clinch
In the team’s “Senior Night” win over Auburn, freshman Ellie Lazzari competed in three events and shared the event title on beam with junior Leah Clapper. The gymnast from Wheaton, Illinois, has only grown as a contributor for Florida since her beginnings as a beam specialist. Her 9.914 average score on the beam is sixth in the nation, and she has begun to gain confidence in the other events as well.
“To see her come in day in, day out and have experienced that taste of success, you can just see that want, that desire, to do more and to be filled with more confidence after every meet that she goes into,” Rowland said. “It’s been great to see, and this weekend was a great testament to that evolution. She still has some in the tank to give, and to perfect those routines as we go along.”
“We deserve everything that’s coming for us. We deserve a ring, we deserve a title.”- Junior Nya Reed
For Rowland and her nation-topping Gators, there are a handful of things that her team can secure on Friday in Tuscaloosa. For one, the team can finish off the regular season with a perfect record; this would be Florida’s second-consecutive perfect regular season. Also, Alabama is the only team in the conference with one loss; the visiting Gators can ensure that they are the sole holders of the SEC Championship of the regular season.
“I think the exciting part is that we haven’t put an entire meet together that we know we’re capable of doing,” Rowland said. “Fixing little things here and there and, at the end, putting everything together. That’s the goal.”
Where to Watch
The meet between Florida and Alabama can be viewed on the SEC Network alternate channel. The matchup in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will start at 8:30.