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January 18, 2013TUSCALOOSA| The No. 6 University of Alabama gymnastics team will open its home schedule tonight at Coleman Coliseum against the No. 5 LSU Tigers.
The Crimson Tide won its season opener on the road against the Missouri Tigers, 196.45-192.025, last Friday and is looking to build off that performance.
"We were all really proud of how we did," junior Kim Jacob said. "Obviously, there was some little mistakes and a lot to improve on. We're just ready to get out there. We've been working hard all preseason and just had nothing left to do but get a start going."
This week's Tigers present a much tougher challenge than last week's. LSU already has two wins under its belt, including one against the No. 3 Florida Gators.
LSU's score of 196.875 against Florida is the third-highest score posted by anyone in the country so far in the young season.
"I think they try really hard in every one, but I do feel like they'll know the importance of (facing LSU)," Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said about her team's mindset. "They know that it will come down to the last person, the last two people on balance beam and floor exercise. That's the way it's going to come down if you want to win."
As will be the case all season, the Crimson Tide knows it will have a target on its back, as it strives for a third straight national championship. It will get every team's best shot, which can be especially dangerous against a team like LSU.
"We have this competitive mark on our back and those teams want to come in here and they want to beat us because they want to say they beat the defending national champions," Patterson said. "LSU has always had a little bit of a better competitive spirit, because I always feel like they have something to prove. Maybe they haven't won the SEC Championship or they haven't won a national championship. So for them, they want to come out and beat us and show everybody, 'this is our year.'"
It will be the first of two meetings between the schools in the regular season. They will meet again in Baton Rouge. It's the first time Alabama will face the same school twice in the regular season since 2009, when the Crimson Tide faced the Auburn Tigers both on the road and at home.
Patterson said the decision came down to wanting to have the most challenging schedule possible to prepare her team for the postseason, while maintaining a reasonable travel schedule.
"My goal is find competition," she said. "You can go across the country and compete, but really, to compete against LSU, that's an easy trip. They have a good crowd, they help us draw good crowds."
There will also be a little bit of extra motivation for the meet, according to one gymnast.
"I think our rivalry with them kind of starts on the football field," Domier said.
"It's always a great game in the fall and we try to bring that same energy to the LSU gymnastics meet every year."