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Friday, March 31, 2023

After the long wait for the season opener, the Gators proved they still had some cobwebs in their first meet Friday.

Florida (0-1) opened the meet on the uneven bars and only managed to score a 48.175, the lowest score of the meet for either team.

The poor start was too much to overcome as UF lost 196.25-195.275 to Oklahoma.

“We competed timid on the first event,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “That’s a hole that we really just couldn’t get out (of). When the mistakes happened, it was pretty hard to overcome point-wise.”

The Gators were missing nine-time All-American Melanie Sinclair, who was kicked off the team after being arrested in October, on the bars, as she posted the nation’s third-best average score in the event a year ago, averaging a 9.92.

Senior Maranda Smith, who tied for a meet-low 9.2 on the bars, was quick to blame missed handstands and botched landings for the low scoring on bars instead of Sinclair’s absence.

“The thing we missed with Mel overall with the competition was just her attitude,” Smith said. “We have girls that can get the same score. We missed her fun attitude.”

The Gators made up ground on the Sooners with a 49.3 score on vault. They were led by Smith and freshman Ashanée Dickerson, who both tallied scores of 9.875.

Dickerson was the meet’s only all-around competitor and earned or shared the highest score in three of the four events for the Gators. She was the anchor on all three of those events.

She finished with a 39.35 and showed glimpses of what Faehn saw when she said Dickerson could be a heavy all-around hitter in the future for UF.

“She did a phenomenal job,” Faehn said. “She just went out and did what she does every single day in practice, and that’s what I was trying to share with the athletes: You’re not going to perform any miracles at the competition site. You’re going to compete how you train.”

Although the meet did not go how the team wanted, it showed the Gators what they need to improve before their next meet.

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In their next competition, they are going to have to be more aggressive from the opening event.

“It was more of a meet where we got our jitters out,” Smith said. “All the mistakes that were made were jitters — with our bar routines — they were jitters in the sense that we weren’t aggressive and we held back so we made little stupid mistakes.”

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