The Auburn Tigers (5-5, 3-3 SEC) hosted the Georgia Bulldogs (6-9, 1-5 SEC) on Friday, February 24 inside a sold out Neville Arena, where the Tigers responded with a big-time win, 197.550-196.075.
The lights dropped, the arena roared, the smoke and flames introduced the Auburn gymnasts, the lights came on, and it was showtime, as Auburn took control from the very first event.
Auburn Rotation: Vault, Bars, Beam, Floor
Georgia Rotation: Bars, Vault, Floor, Beam
Sophia Groth led the night off for Auburn with a solid 9.825 on vault, and that momentum carried all the way through the first rotation. Olympic champion Suni Lee had a career high 9.950 leading the way, while Derrian Gobourne and Sara Hubbard were right behind, both scoring 9.900. The Tigers finished with a 49.450 after the first rotation. Starting strong was a major key of emphasis for both head coach Jeff Graba as well as the girls, as both sides had comments postgame.
“For all of us, we wanted to start off strong, I think that was one of the biggest things we wanted to do, and we did”, fifth year Derrian Gobourne said in response to their biggest goal in this competition.
Auburn welcomed Aria Brusch back to bars for the first time this season, and she delivered in a huge way, scoring a 9.900. Both Suni Lee and Derrian Gobourne brought Neville Arena to an uproar, scoring 9.950s, however, Lee’s run was finished off by boos. This was the first of two major scoring discrepancies on the evening, as one judge thought Suni was perfect (as did the crowd), while the other dropped her score by an entire tenth, scoring her only a 9.900. Nevertheless, the Tigers brought together a great score of 49.400.
Where the frustration lied with the Auburn squad was on their beam rotation, scoring a 49.250, a season low. Gabby McLaughlin highlighted the Tigers, scoring a 9.900.
“I think we’re trying to be too perfect in the middle two events…It seems like we’re 6 individuals on beam rather than a squad," Graba expressed in his post game thoughts. “We’re all trying to score 11’s rather than going up and just doing your job”.
The Tigers finished their performance on the floor, where the squad was happy to be at home, so the arena’s energy could power them through.
“It’s really hard ending on floor at eight o’clock at night, and so feeling that energy and togetherness is really needed”, Derrian Gobourne said, praising the home court advantage that the Auburn Jungle and Neville Arena provide.
“It’s so easy competing here with our crowd, because they really give you that energy that you need”, sophomore Olivia Hollingsworth added.
The Tigers tallied a 49.450 total score on the floor. Sophia Groth and Olivia Hollingsworth both scored 9.900s, and ‘the queen herself’, Derrian Gobourne, led the pack with a 9.950.
A very successful night overall for the Auburn Tigers, but everyone competing is desiring to see more when looking ahead to the remaining regular season competitions as well as the postseason.
“It feels amazing [scoring a 197.550], even though we know we have more in the tank, we’re still scoring so high”, Derrian Gobourne stated. It’s really inspiring, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when we put it all together.
“Our athletes are tough as nails, we’re ready for the postseason,” head coach Jeff Graba emphasized. “This year’s team has a lot of scoring potential, it has as much as we did last year, if not probably a little bit more. It’s just a matter of settling down and believing in ourselves and getting to the point where we expect it to happen.”
The Auburn Tigers head to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the Wildcats (7-2, 4-1 SEC) on March 3 prior to returning home for their final home meet of the season against the Penn State Nittany Lions on March 10.