The moment junior Alicia Boren’s feet hit the mat at the end of her uneven bars routine, her face transformed into a smile as bright as the sparkles on her uniform.
The wait was over. Boren had just finished her first event of the season, registering a solid 9.900.
On Saturday, the No. 2 Gators (1-0) opened regular-season action away from home against West Virginia in a 195.900-194.425 win. Boren boosted the team’s victory with an all-around score of 39.575, the highest ever to open a season in UF’s history.
The Gators will enter their first home meet of the season on Friday against No. 3 LSU, an opponent they haven't defeated since 2011.
Florida's regular season meet against the Tigers last season on March 5, 2016, ended with UF losing 198.150-196.600 and LSU earning the 2017 SEC title. Florida will look to write a different narrative against the Tigers in 2018, backed by its home crowd at the O'Connell Center. It will need to make up for some of the minor mistakes and stumbles that took place against West Virginia, but the team doesn’t expect anything to hold them back in its next meet.
“I think the biggest takeaway is to not linger on what happened at this meet,” Boren said in a release after the win over WVU. “I think it’s to be strong and be positive and get ready.”
LSU counted for one of UF’s two losses in the regular season last spring. Come Friday, Florida doesn’t want to give up a win in home territory so easily.
“(They’re a) very talented team,” coach Jenny Rowland said in a release. “I know they’re gonna get to the gym on Monday and kick it up a notch for our next home meet.”
Against West Virginia, the Gators faced the challenge of swapping players in and out of the lineup, with some gymnasts put in events they weren’t used to. After adjusting to its circumstances, UF pulled out a win with senior Alex McMurtry leading bars and vault and Boren placing first in floor and beam.
“I think all we have to learn is just expect anything,” McMurtry said in a release. “We had some falls and mistakes and that’s usual this time of the year and that’s fine, so I think we just need to be ready for anything.”
A story from floridagators.com contributed to this report.