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March 16, 2013

Alabama gymnastics tops No. 1 Oklahoma

TUSCALOOSA | Coleman Coliseum has been a graveyard for top NCAA gymnastics teams this season and it claimed another victim in the University of Alabama's regular-season finale Friday.

No. 4 Alabama handled No. 1 Oklahoma 197.525 to 196.9 on senior night. Only three Sooner gymnasts scored a 9.9 or higher, all in the last rotation, and the Crimson Tide posted or tied season-highs on two events in the victory over the previously-undefeated Sooners.

"Tonight's meet was a great confidence booster," said senior Ashley Priess, who competed in her last regular-season meet in Coleman Coliseum. "We had some really standout, 'wow' moments on all four events, really. We weren't at our best on all four events, but there are really easy areas that we can improve this week in practice. I don't think this team could be more confident going into the postseason."

Alabama's other three seniors - Becca Alexin, Ashley Sledge and Marissa Gutierrez - are undefeated at home for their Crimson Tide career.

Aside from a disappointing balance beam rotation, Alabama put together a performance it can use to springboard itself into the postseason, which begins next week at the SEC Championships. And though it was the last home meet of the regular season, Alabama will compete in Coleman Colisum one more time when it hosts an NCAA regional championship on April 6.

"We've come a long way," UA coach Sarah Patterson said. "I still think we're not exactly where we're going to be at the end, but I like the steps forward that we made."

The Sooners competed on Friday and Sunday of last weekend, and both Patterson and OU coach K.J. Kindler said the Sooners, with whom Alabama will be battling for a national championship in April, showed some fatigue Friday night.

"We were tired," Kindler said. "We love coming here, it's a great crowd and a good atmosphere and they're a great team. But we're not disappointed."

Alabama tied a season-high total on vault during the first rotation, which included two 9.95s from a pair of underclassmen. The Crimson Tide extended its lead in the second rotation, posting a season-high total on the uneven bars.

Both teams struggled in the third rotation, posting matching 49.1s with Alabama on balance beam and Oklahoma on floor exercise.
Alabama sealed the win in the final rotation, with just one gymnast scoring below a 9.875.

Freshman Lauren Beers made her debut on uneven bars and scored a career-high on vault and floor exercise. Sledge set a career-high on uneven bars. Gutierrez missed her third consecutive meet with an ankle sprain.

Alabama will travel to Little Rock, Ark., next Saturday for the SEC Championships.

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