Jenny Rowland

Coach Jenny Rowland and the No. 5 Gators get their second opportunity to take down the No. 1 team in three weeks at the O'Connell Center tonight. “The Gators are always up for the challenge, and this weekend is not gonna be any different.”

Grace King / Alligator Staff

For the second time this season, the UF gymnastics team will host a No. 1 team at home. The No. 5 Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) are set to take on No. 1 Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) tonight at 6:45 in the nation’s top gymnastics match of the weekend.

Florida’s first matchup with a top-ranked team took place on Jan. 12, when the then-No. 7 Gators lost 197.250–197.125 to LSU in front of a sold-out O’Connell Center.

“Who can say they competed back-to-back home meets against a No. 1 team?” coach Jenny Rowland said. “The Gators are always up for the challenge, and this weekend is not gonna be any different.”

As UF heads into its much anticipated matchup with the Sooners, one aspect Rowland is focused on is the team’s lineup. She recognizes the kind of competition that exists between the gymnasts and encourages the team’s friendly rivalry to get a place on each meet’s lineups.  

“Depth is a wonderful thing,” Rowland said. “To find out what our best lineup is, who works best in what spot... that’s what we’ve been doing over these last couple of competitions.”

The last time Florida faced off against the Sooners in the regular season was on March 6, 2015, when the Gators lost by just 0.4 points.

In Oklahoma’s last meet on Jan. 21 against Iowa State and Texas Woman’s University, OU put up the nation’s third-highest score this season (197.525).

Florida is coming off a 196.325-195.950 win over Kentucky, a match that brought the Gators their first SEC win of 2018. The two teams meet as the winners of the past five NCAA team titles.

For the Gators, it will be their first time competing against the Sooners in the regular season in three years. Although some time has passed since the two teams met, Florida enters the match with the same confidence it uses to hype itself up for every meet.

“When we went one-on-one with OU, we were at the end of the season and it was at their home meet,” senior Kennedy Baker said. “This year it’s definitely a little different, and we’re facing them earlier on in the season.”

One gymnast who is more than ready for the match is sophomore Rachel Gowey. In UF’s last competition against Kentucky, Gowey claimed both the uneven bars and balance beam titles for the Gators.

“We really can’t go anywhere but up from here,” Gowey said.

Follow Alana Gomez on Twitter @alanaa_gomez and contact her at [email protected].

Alana Gomez is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida gymnastics team. She has previously covered UF men’s and women's cross country. She has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.