Jan. 23, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 22 University of Kentucky gymnastics team competes in its first true road meet of the season at Missouri Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. The meet marks UK’s first visit to Columbia, Mo., since 2004 and the first since Mizzou joined the Southeastern Conference before the 2013 season.
Live results from the Hearnes Center can be found on MUTigers.com, while updates will also be available on Twitter at @UKgymnastics. Missouri will stream the meet live on MUTigers.com.
The Wildcats (3-2, 0-1 SEC) are 22nd in the GymInfo Top 25 after two weeks of competition, with a three-team sweep at home before a third place, neutral-site finish in Knoxville last weekend. The Tigers (0-2, 0-2 SEC) have competed once at home and once on the road, both SEC dual-meet contests.
Kentucky won last year’s meeting, 194.250-194.125, in Memorial Coliseum. The meet marked the first between the two teams since the Tigers joined the SEC. The win came in comeback fashion, with a 49.050 on floor to erase a 0.725-point deficit going into the final rotation.
HEAD COACH Tim Garrison PREVIEWS MISSOURI
“Every meet in the SEC is a challenge, so we’re excited to get on the road and compete. This is our first true road meet of the season, so our event order will be different, which is something we’ve worked on this weekend. We’ll start on bars, and then compete on vault, before closing on floor and beam.
“I’m excited that we are getting some depth and competition on events within the team. It’s nice to have that in practice, because once we start competing with ourselves, we are going to be way more competitive in competitions. We are pushing each other for spots in the lineup, and that makes us better.”
Missouri is 0-2 on the season, with a 197.150-193.425 loss to open the season at then-No. 2 Alabama before a 196.050-194.650 defeat at home to No. 10 Arkansas. In their home-opener against the Razorbacks, 11 Tigers tied or set career high scores. Junior Rachel Updike earned a meet-high 9.900 on balance beam, while Mizzou tallied season best team scores on vault, beam and floor.
With a 194.038 season average, Missouri is 28th nationally. The Tigers are within the top 25 at 17th on uneven bars with a 48.838 average, while they are 33rd on both vault (48.675) and balance beam (48.200). On floor, MU is tied for 35th with a 48.325 average.
LAST YEAR VS. THE TIGERS
In its first meeting as SEC foes, Kentucky came back on the final rotation to secure a 194.250-194.125 win in Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 15, 2013.
The Wildcats trailed Missouri by 0.725 entering the last event, but the Blue and White scored a 49.050 on floor to secure their third SEC win of the season.
Tiara Phipps and Alexis Gross each scored 9.800s on floor to get UK off to a good start. Kenzie Hedges then notched a 9.75 before Shannon Mitchell and Audrey Harrison produced the best two floor routines of the night to clinch the victory.
Harrison was the lone all-around competitor and posted a 39.300. She also won balance beam and shared meet-high honors on uneven bars and floor.
UP NEXT: AT NO. 6 GEORGIA (FEB. 1, 4 P.M. ET)
The Wildcats cap a three-week roadtrip at sixth-ranked Georgia on Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. ET.
Last season, UK tied then-No. 6 Georgia, 195.825-195.825 in Lexington. With a season-high team score, the Wildcats won beam and floor, the final two events. Audrey Harrison won the all-around title and notched the top score on floor while Alexis Gross tallied a win on bars.
LAST TIME OUT: OZONE CLASSIC
In its first road competition of the season, UK fell to No. 6 Nebraska and No. 3 Alabama at the Ozone Collegiate Gymnastic Classic on Jan. 18 in Knoxville, Tenn. The Wildcats scored a 194.650, behind the Cornhuskers’ 196.250 and the Crimson Tide’s 196.050.
Kentucky scored a 48.875 on floor, the second-highest total at the meet, along with a season-high 48.750 on vault, a 48.625 on beam and a 48.400 on bars. Senior Audrey Harrison, a Knoxville native, came in third in the all-around with a season-high 39.175. Her total came behind two Nebraska gymnasts and just 0.250 out of second place.
UK tallied 12 individual season high scores, while sophomore Marissa Beucler registered a career-high-tying 9.725 on vault.
CATS RANKED 22ND NATIONALLY
After two weeks of competition, the Wildcats are ranked 22nd as a team and have earned two top-21 event rankings. With a 194.825 average, UK is one of seven SEC squads in the top 25.
On individual events, Kentucky is 18th on balance beam with a 48.650 average and 21st on floor with a 48.913. The Wildcats are 30th on uneven bars with a 48.588 and tied for 33rd on vault with a 48.675 average after a season-best 48.750 score at the Ozone Classic last weekend.
In the individual rankings, senior Audrey Harrison is 23rd on balance beam with a 9.838 and 24th in the all-around with a 39.125.
RECORD CROWD SEES EXCITE NIGHT WIN
As Kentucky beat three teams to win its season-opener on Jan. 10, it did so in front of one of the largest crowds in UK gymnastics history. A crowd of 5,839 witnessed the Excite Night victory, which marked the largest since 2007, when 6,875 where in attendance. It also marked the third-largest UK home crowd since at least 1997.
2014 SCHEDULE NOTHING TO LAUGH AT
With 10 top-25 teams on Kentucky’s 2014 slate, including four of the top five, ranked in the preseason coaches poll, the Wildcats face one of the most grueling schedules in the nation. Among top-25 teams, CollegeGymFans.com has tabbed UK’s schedule as the toughest in the country, while RoadtoNationals.com the Blue and White’s schedule as the second-best strength of schedule among all NCAA teams. Seven of the SEC’s eight teams enter the season ranked nationally, with the eighth, Missouri, receiving votes.
HIGHEST PRESEASON RANKING
The Wildcats earned their highest preseason ranking in team history at 21st. In the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, UK is one of seven SEC teams ranked nationally, led by top-ranked and defending national champion Florida and No. 2 Alabama. In 2012, head coach Tim Garrison’s first season, the Wildcats were ranked 23rd while they were voted 25th last season.
UK returns 13 letterwinners from the record-setting 2013 team and lost just two. Among the returners are seniors Holly Cunningham, Audrey Harrison and Kayla Sienkowski along with redshirt junior Kayla Hartley. Harrison returns after winning a league-leading six all-around titles in SEC competition last year. The Wildcats welcome three freshmen, Alyssa Bertoni, Kirsten Canini and Taylor Puryear to the team in 2014.
A LOOK BACK AT A RECORD-SETTING 2013
Kentucky is coming off a record-setting 2013 campaign that saw numerous school records fall. UK earned a ninth-consecutive NCAA Regional bid with a school-record regional qualifying score of 196.06 after breaking the team best score twice. A 196.775 in the regular season finale at Penn State bested the previous high score, set earlier in the season at Ball State.
The Wildcats notched three wins against SEC opponents, the most in program history and earned a 3-3-1 league mark, also a school best. All three wins were against teams ranked in the top 15, with two over top-nine foes. In postseason play, UK tallied the program’s highest-ever NCAA Regional team score of 195.575 and finished fourth at the regional.