Alabama will compete tonight in Session II of the NCAA Championships for one of three spots to advance to the Super Six against today’s earlier top three scorers – Florida, LSU and Georgia. But this session tonight is going to be more of a challenge for the Tide because the teams include the host team, UCLA, the #2 seeded team, Oklahoma, the Utes of Utah, and the Michigan Wolverines, as well as the always scrappy Arkansas Razorbacks, who upset the Oregon State Beavers on their home turf two weeks ago at the Corvallis Regional.
To advance to the Super Six, Alabama does not need to be perfect but they must be consistently solid and confident like they were at SECs, beginning with their opening routine on the Uneven Bars, which senior Ashley Sledge will lead off. The handstands, big release moves and dismount landings will be critical elements that Alabama must hit in order to garner the highest score possible on this opening event. Senior Ashley Priess will anchor this event for the Tide and is one of the few gymnasts in the competition that will throw two major release moves, so we will need a big routine from her to close out.
Alabama will move next to the balance beam and we need to see them execute aggressively to impress these judges here tonight. Balance Beam and Floor Exercise earlier today were the tightest scoring events, so Alabama must be fluid in their moves and connect all the required series elements, or they will be hit hard by the judges.
Alabama will be on a bye in Rotation 4 but return in Rotation 5 on the Floor Exercise, where the Tide will be without senior Marissa Gutierrez and possibly senior Ashley Sledge. But Alabama will have five routines with E opening passes and if they land these chest high and in bounds, we should see a solid team score result.
Alabama will finish tonight’s competition on one of their strongest events, the vault. But again they will be without Marissa Gutierrez. Ashley Sledge is expected back on this event and senior Ashley Priess earned a super 9.90 at Regionals, so the Tide has decent depth to replace Gutierrez. But the Tide must stick their landings – they have arguably the best amplitude and distance with their vaults, but the judges also want to see controlled, stuck landings.
It promises to be another fantastic NCAA Championships – here’s hoping the Tide competes with fire, passion and aggression – leave nothing to chance Bama! Roll Tide!