They made it interesting at the end, but the Gators are moving on.
No. 2 Florida finished tied for first place in its NCAA Semifinal with Utah with a score of 197.475, advancing to its fourth-consecutive Super Six along with the Utes and third-place Stanford. They join No. 1 seed Oklahoma, No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Auburn, who advanced from the second semifinal, in the title meet.
“This was just an absolutely incredibly tough, competitive session,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was amazing gymnastics from all six teams and so I know I think I can speak for everyone here that it was a grueling competition.”
The pivotal moment for the Gators came on beam, the team’s final event of the competition.
After three decent performances on the other events, Florida was in good position heading into the final rotation of the afternoon.
But after a 9.625 from Claire Boyce and a 9.775 from Rachel Spicer to start, Florida suddenly found itself in danger.
Michigan had already posted a 197.025 and Stanford had been stride for stride with the Gators through the first three events.
Utah’s Georgia Dabritz only amplified the tension by posting a perfect 10 on bars midway through Florida’s beam performance, essentially ensuring the Utes a spot in the top three.
Two solid efforts from Florida’s Ericha Fassbender and Bridget Sloan — a 9.825 and 9.875, respectively — helped matters slightly, but the pressure was still on for the Gators.
Any minor mishap could be costly.
Any significant mistake would be catastrophic.
But freshman Alex McMurtry and senior Kytra Hunter finished the event and Florida’s competition with clutch back-to-back 9.900s, putting the Gators back atop the leaderboard and sending them through to Saturday.
For Faehn, the way the team answered the adversity was exactly what she was looking for.
“Everyone is human,” she said. “Everyone is not gonna be perfect every single time, so it’s how you react to those things.
“We had little miscues here and there but I loved that we maintained our energy level and did not get affected by that, mentally or physically, and then finished out really strong on beam, which was great when there was heavy pressure heading into that event.”
Florida started out the afternoon with a 49.375 on floor, highlighted by a 9.950 from Hunter. Bridget Sloan suffered a surprising stumble in the event, scoring a 9.675.
The Gators posted the same score on vault behind a 9.925 from Sloan and a 9.900 from McMurtry.
Bars was Florida’s best event, with Sloan scoring a 9.950 en route to a 49.475 team score.
Kytra Hunter finished the competition with a 39.600, tying UCLA’s Samantha Peszek for the highest all-around score of the session.
Florida will compete Saturday in the Super Six competition starting at 7 p.m.
Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24
Florida's Kytra Hunter draws support from her team, rear, as she runs through her floor exercise routine during the NCAA women's Gymnastics Championships Friday, April 17, 2015, in Fort Worth, Texas.