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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Sloan hits perfect score on vault, injures ankle in season-opening win

<p>Bridget Sloan performs a floor routine during Florida's win against LSU last season. Sloan injured her ankle while performing her floor exercise in UF's 196.925-193.700 win against Ball State on Sunday.</p>

Bridget Sloan performs a floor routine during Florida's win against LSU last season. Sloan injured her ankle while performing her floor exercise in UF's 196.925-193.700 win against Ball State on Sunday.

The UF gymnastics team won its season opener, but it may have lost something — or rather someone — more important.

No. 1 Florida defeated Ball State by a total score of 196.925-193.700 on Sunday in what amounted to an imperfect but ultimately successful first meet of the year. But the story of the day was star junior Bridget Sloan.

Sloan injured her ankle during the final tumbling pass of her floor routine, causing her to grimace in pain as she stood on one leg, struggling to summon the will to finish.

She could not.

The injury also prevented her from competing in the Gators’ final routine, the balance beam.

"Obviously we won’t know more details until she gets examined by our medical staff (Monday) and gets an MRI so that we can further find out in detail what really is wrong and then the healing process from there," coach Rhonda Faehn said. "We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s just a kind of bump in the road and that she will be back before the season ends."

Faehn was forced to readjust her lineup in the final rotation and replace Sloan with Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto on the balance beam. Dancose-Giambattisto filled in admirably, scoring a 9.900.

"It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie and say the team wasn’t rattled heading into beam," Faehn said, "because there’s a lineup change and everyone’s concerned for (Sloan), and I was proud of the way we did respond and for Bianca to come in on last minute’s notice and get a gorgeous beam routine."

The rest of the team struggled to do the same, however, as Florida only managed to score a 48.825 for the routine — its only sub-49 score.

Senior Rachel Spicer and freshman Ericha Fassbender both fell during the routine and scored a 9.200 and 9.300, respectively, and senior Kytra Hunter had a close call before recovering to score a 9.825.

Leading up to the injury, though, the Gators performed well, finishing with the second highest opening-meet score in UF history.

The Gators performed best on the vault, scoring a 49.500 team total with Sloan putting in a perfect 10 on her first vault of the season.

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She has now scored a perfect mark in the vault, beam and floor.

Hunter won the 13th all-around title of her career, scoring a 39.475, with her best score coming in the vault. Senior Kiersten Wang, who did not compete last season after suffering two adductor tears in her right leg, competed in the vault and on the floor, scoring a 9.800 and 9.825 respectively.

Florida’s freshmen had mixed results in their first collegiate meet. Kennedy Baker scored no worse than 9.825 in the three routines she competed in, and Faehn said she was "just a picture of calm and confidence."

Alex McMurtry scored a 9.850 in the vault, her lone rotation, while Fassbender struggled, adding a 9.725 on the floor to her aforementioned beam routine.

The Gators will now be faced with juggling their lineup on a short week, with their first home match taking place Friday night.

"This is what we train for every year," Faehn said. "You can never count injuries or illnesses and everyone has to be able to be prepared and step up when they need to and be called upon, and that’s what we’ll be looking for, especially over these next four to six weeks."

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Bridget Sloan performs a floor routine during Florida's win against LSU last season. Sloan injured her ankle while performing her floor exercise in UF's 196.925-193.700 win against Ball State on Sunday.

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