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Friday, April 19, 2024

UF seeks first road win in homecoming trip for Mahlich

For Elizabeth Mahlich, the trip north to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend is more of a homecoming than a road meet.

Mahlich grew up in Mason, Mich., about a 20-minute drive from East Lansing, and is ready to see friends and family cheering her in a less-hostile crowd than most away meets.

"It'll be fun competing at a meet that I always used to go to," Mahlich said.

The No. 9 Gators (3-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) will face Michigan State on Saturday, treating the team to a homey feel Friday night.

"They're all excited to have a nice home-cooked meal instead of a catered one," Mahlich said.

She said the team will be visiting her house Friday night and that it will be a radical change of scenery.

"Going to our actual house and knowing how and where I used to live will probably be a little different and exciting for (the team)," she said. "I live out in the country, around absolutely no one, so it's going to be a lot different."

UF coach Rhonda Faehn sees this meet as a showcase event for the all-around freshman.

"Elizabeth has done a tremendous job for this team this year," Faehn said. "She's really stepped up as a freshman and has really just come out in pressure situations and done a great job. We're really excited for her to be able go home to see her family, to see her friends, but also to show them just what a great job she's doing for this program."

The Gators will take on the Spartans (5-8) in their first road meet against a non-SEC opponent. That may be good news since the team is 0-2 on the road this season. Both losses came against SEC opponents, including a loss on the road at LSU on Feb. 6.

"There's nothing to lose," junior Melanie Sinclair said. "We've gone into two away meets already and have had not-so-good experiences. (We) might as well go out and give it our all."

Even though ranking- and record-wise Michigan State may be one of the weakest teams on UF's schedule, Faehn wants her team to focus internally more than anything else.

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"We don't ever look at who we're competing against as far as how we're supposed to perform," Faehn said. "We have something we have to prove. We have to turn this season around."

The team improved its performance against LSU, and even though it wasn't enough for the win, Sinclair pointed out the meet had its positives.

"We just have little flukes here and there," she said. "Overall it was a decent competition, and it makes you feel good that knowing that even though we did have mistakes, we kept a positive attitude, we kept the composure as a team that we needed to keep."

In a sport that focuses more on individual performance, having that team energy is vital for the rest of the squad to feed off of.

Faehn wants her gymnasts to start the meet with energy and have it snowball.

UF opens the meet on bars because it is the road team. Mahlich is penciled in for the first spot.

"What a way to start out the competition," Faehn said.

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