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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Struggles on the uneven bars cost the Gators their season opener against Oklahoma in Norman, but the team is not dwelling on last week’s results.

Despite a total score of 48.175 on the bars — by far the team’s lowest-scoring event of the meet — Florida feels confident moving forward with the season.

The biggest issue the team had on the bars, which was their first event of the meet, was with handstands, an area they have been working on this week.

“We didn’t hit any of our handstands and had two falls,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “If you’re going up against a top-10 team on the road, you can’t expect to win like that.”

The Gators struggled getting completely vertical on handstands, and that’s one of the biggest things the judges look for on the bars.

“It’s not that hard, but you have to really be focused on it,” Faehn said.

Faehn said the team wasn’t as aggressive as they should’ve been in warm-ups.

That lack of aggressiveness may have been the key factor in the team’s rough performance to open the season.

“We were just holding back a little bit,” said senior Amanda Castillo, who scored a team-high 9.8 on the bars. “But we’re very talented and have a lot of room to grow.”

With 13 of the team’s 24 routines being performed by newcomers, it’s no surprise UF has room to improve.

One of those newcomers, freshman Liz Green, led off for the Gators on the bars, scoring a 9.675 to try to set the tone for the team, but admitted she was nervous going into her first collegiate meet. That’s a feeling junior Alicia Goodwin said the team needs to overcome.

“Don’t be timid, just go aggressive,” Goodwin said. “We’re not looking back; we’re just looking forward and focusing a lot on handstands and little details.”

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Although the team struggled in its first event, Faehn said she was proud of how her team rebounded and tried to dig itself out of the early hole and to regain momentum as the meet progressed.

Faehn is confident the team’s early issues will get worked out as the season continues and said  her team will get to where it needs to be through more numbers in practice and more repetitions in a competitive setting.

The Gators have been honing their handstands, as well as their dismounts, in preparation for the next meet Friday against Arkansas, the team’s home opener.

The most important thing, according to Faehn, is to use the Oklahoma meet as a stepping stone and to focus on correcting all the minor details they made mistakes on.

“The season is long, and it’s a matter of making sure that each competition we’re growing and getting more confident,” Faehn said. “It just takes a little while for them to get comfortable, and confident and cohesive as a group.”

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