For freshman Bridgette Caquatto, Friday night’s gymnastics meet was more than her college debut.
No. 1 Florida’s 196.975-196.075 win against No. 23 Kentucky in the O’Connell Center was the first time Caquatto and her sister Mackenzie competed on the same team since they became elite gymnasts.
"When I was in the elite world, she was always a senior when I was a junior, so I actually never competed with her too much," Bridgette said. "I’ve been looking forward to a day like this. I wish it would’ve gone a little better for our team and for both of us, but it was really exciting."
Prior to Friday, Bridgette had only competed for Florida in exhibition during Florida’s 197.65-196.025 win against Auburn on Jan. 25 and in Florida’s 197.575-196.175 victory against Arkansas on Feb. 1. The freshman had been held to only exhibition action, because she was still rehabbing after undergoing shoulder surgery on May 31 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. Coach Rhonda Faehn debated redshirting Bridgette earlier in the week, but she changed her mind before Friday’s meet.
"As a coaching staff, we all really decided that she needs the experience," Faehn said. "She is capable of being a 9.9 on two events minimum. … It was just a decision that she really has the potential to be a very big contributor, and we wanted to be able to see her out there."
Bridgette started her college career by performing on bars and floor Friday. However, a miss on bars and out of bounds on floor resulted in a low 9.225 and 9.65, respectively.
"It was not the night that I wanted to have, but I was thankful that they put me out there," Bridgette said.
With Mackenzie and Bridgette both competing on Friday, it was the first time the Gators had sisters in the lineup since Lynn and Karen McDonnell performed at the NCAA Championships on April 6, 1984. But that wasn’t the only change for UF.
For the first time since Feb. 18, 2011, Florida competed without an all-around competitor.
Even with the lineup change, the Gators got off to a strong start on vault and bars. Florida used four new personal bests in the first two rotations to give the Gators a 99.025-98 lead against the Wildcats.
But two misses on beam from Bridget Sloan and Mackenzie led to a dismal 48.525, Florida’s lowest beam score this season.
Still, the Gators regrouped in the final rotation. Jamie Shisler and Kiersten Wang used career-best performances on floor to help Florida earn its second-highest score on floor this season with a 49.425.
"The first two events were incredible and the last event was really wonderful with the way they pulled it together," Faehn said. "Beam was very uncharacteristic for them. They’re a very strong beam team. … There were so many positive highlights (Friday). I don’t want the few mistakes to overshadow the really great moments that were there."
Contact Katie Agostin at [email protected].