Talk about a season-opening statement.
Travelling to Denton, Texas, to take on Texas Woman’s University, the No. 2 UF gymnastics team emerged from Kitty Magee Arena with a resounding 196.825-191.450 victory in Jenny Rowland’s head coaching debut.
Friday evening’s contest marked just the second meeting between the two institutions, and while Florida’s total score fell 1.075 points short of last season’s mark against TWU, the Gators improved on their margin of victory, triumphing by 5.375 points as opposed to the previous matchup’s 4.500.
Not bad for a squad opening up its regular season slate on the road for the 13th time since 1980.
Battling through minor rust, the Gators (1-0) defeated the Pioneers (0-1) in all four rotations, finishing top-three in the balance beam, vault, floor and bars.
UF’s athletes swept each of the meet’s five accolades. Sophomore Alex McMurtry clinched the vault title, while sophomore Ericha Fassbender split balance beam honors with freshman teammate Alicia Boren. Senior Bridget Sloan earned first place in both the uneven bars and floor competitions, sharing the latter distinction with All-American sophomore Kennedy Baker. Furthermore, Sloan’s final individual score of 39.500 bagged all-around champion laurels for the former Olympian.
Additionally, four members of Florida’s five athlete recruiting class took to the collegiate mat for the first time, putting together a string of solid performances.
Making their debuts were: Amanda Cheney (9.675 on the vault), Boren (9.350 on the vault, 9.900 on the balance beam and 9.850 on the floor), Peyton Ernst (9.875 on the balance beam) and Ashley Hiller (9.725 on the floor and an exhibition routine on the beam). The fifth, Lacy Dagen, is out for the year with a torn ACL.
Following the win, the Gators now have a full week to prepare for their Jan. 15 home opener against preseason No. 6 UCLA.
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Bridget Sloan performs on the balance beam during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia. Sloan scored a 9.95 on the event.