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Tuesday, March 05, 2024
<p>Coach Rhonda Faehn hugs Kytra Hunter following Hunter's balance beam routine during Florida's win against Missouri on Friday in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Coach Rhonda Faehn hugs Kytra Hunter following Hunter's balance beam routine during Florida's win against Missouri on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

Even after losing to LSU, Rhonda Faehn believes Florida is almost ready for the pressure of the postseason.

In front of a record crowd in Baton Rouge, the Gators posted their highest road score of the season (197.425) on Friday night.

Faehn saw significant improvements in how they handled the pressure — the type of pressure they will need to overcome to win a championship.

"I felt like they did really well under those circumstances," she said.

"We could have done better, but (I’m) looking for subtle and small improvements every step of the way, and that’s what I feel like this team is doing."

The meet was the third opportunity this year for Faehn to evaluate how her team handled a pressure-packed environment against a top-10 team.

The first was at Alabama, a test Florida failed just over a month ago after posting a season-low 196.80.

The second was at Arkansas two weeks ago, a meet in which the Gators showed marked signs of improvement but still lacked the sharpness they were looking for.

But against LSU, Florida got even closer to its goal, particularly in two areas.

The first was starting the competition quickly, something the team has struggled to do while battling with the nerves that come with the big away meets.

"I loved the way that they started out aggressively, and they had tons of energy," Faehn said.

"That was something that I’ve said to them, that when we’re on the road we have to be so loud and so supportive and cheering each other on, just simply because we have to create our own energy, so it’s really important and I felt the team did just that."

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The second was responding with composure after a fall, something Florida has done well at home but hasn’t been able to translate to the road.

The Gators suffered back-to-back falls on Friday — one from junior Bridgette Caquatto to finish floor and the other from freshman Kennedy Baker to start beam.

But the rest of the gymnasts kept their composure and managed to finish beam with solid scores, keeping them from counting the fall.

"What I did love is that the team responded after that," Faehn said.

"That was, again, a gorgeous beam routine from Claire (Boyce) and as well from Alex (McMurtry) and Ericha (Fassbender), great routines. … I really am happy with how they finished out."

There are only three meets left before Florida’s postseason begins, and each is a precious opportunity to make the adjustments necessary before wins and losses truly matter.

Faehn believes if the gymnasts continue to make the same marginal improvements each week as they have in the past month, the team will be peaking at just the right time.

"Hopefully we’re planning it just properly," she said.

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Coach Rhonda Faehn hugs Kytra Hunter following Hunter's balance beam routine during Florida's win against Missouri on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

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