For a Gators team that came into the season with sky-high expectations, fusing a top-ranked recruiting class with a seasoned returning class that finished fourth in the nation was a challenge on Friday night in Norman, Okla.
Florida scored above 49 points in only one event (vault) compared to three events where the Sooners notched above 49; no Gator gymnast reached the 9.9 mark, and UF dropped its first meet of the season 196.25 to 195.275.
Rhonda Faehn knew losing Melanie Sinclair would impact the team in every way imaginable, including the points she took with her on uneven bars.
The Gators (0-1) started off on bars as the visiting team and ended the event rotation trailing the Sooners 48.95 to 48.175 — it was the lowest-scoring event for UF all night. Freshman Liz Green put up a leadoff score of 9.675. Amanda Castillo performed the first routine of her senior year and contributed a team-high 9.8 on bars, which provided some balance to a pair of 9.2s scored by Maranda Smith and Alicia Goodwin to round out the lineup.
Florida made up ground on Oklahoma after a 49.3 score on vault. Three of the counted scored were 9.85s, turned in by freshmen Dali Lemezan and Marissa King as well as sophomore Nicole Ellis. Smith and Ashanée Dickerson — whom Faehn singled out would hit the ground running — scored 9.875s.
A team that felt very confident about its floor exercise lineup heading into the meet, may have been humbled in the Lloyd Noble Center. Featuring four lower classmen, the Gators managed a 48.925 score on floor.
Green and Dickerson marked the beginning and end of the rotation, respectively, and hauled in a 9.8 and 9.85, respectively. Sandwiched in the middle was a 9.775 by Amy Ferguson, who unveiled a new routine, and a pair of 9.75s by King and Smith.
Despite trailing by three-quarters of a point through three events, UF was unable to muster any type of come-back effort on balance beam.
Dickerson, a freshman, was the meet’s only all-around competitor and she earned or shared the highest score in three of the four events for the Gators, the three events she anchored. She finished with a 39.3 and showed glimpses of what Faehn saw when she said Dickerson could be a heavy all-around hitter in the future.