After a harrowing loss at the hands of the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs on Friday night, the No. 2 Florida gymnastics team needs to find out what follows in the aftermath of defeat.
Dropping a contest to its neighboring rival for the first time since 2009, the Gators were unceremoniously brought back to earth following a searing 4-0 start.
They unraveled in the meet’s final rotation.
Two costly slip-ups on the balance beam were punished by five season-high performances on the Stegeman Coliseum floor for the Bulldogs (3-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference).
Florida had its chances.
The Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) had their opponents on the ropes throughout the first three rounds of action.
They were simply unable to land a knockout blow in a third rotation that saw two Georgia gymnasts suffer three falls.
And with a 0.900-point cushion to burn, the Gators were rattled by a rowdy sell-out crowd of 10,224, the largest audience Florida has performed in front of this year.
"It was a really big crowd and the Stegeman Coliseum was in full force," UF coach Jenny Rowland said in a release. "It was really loud and our team had to perform under the pressure of competing on beam after some big floor scores by Georgia.
"(I) thought it was handled pretty well. There were some bumps and bruises and some misses here and there."
Hobbled by illness, the Gators were undermanned in the penultimate rotation. Usually rock solid in her execution, senior Bridget Sloan stumbled, her upper thigh cramping on the final tumbling pass of her floor routine, tripping her up and docking her score to an event-low 9.525.
And, with flu-like symptoms rearing their ugly head, senior Bridgette Caquatto was unable to anchor the lineup, forcing freshman Ashley Hiller into just her second event of the season and first since competing on the floor at Texas Woman’s University.
Even in that crucial fourth rotation, bright spots marked a seemingly dark outing.
"I thought the team came together well," Rowland said following sophomore Kennedy Baker’s mishap on the beam. "Peyton Ernst came back solid as can be. Ericha Fassbender had an amazing beam performance tonight — she looked so confident up there. Alicia Boren really had a great routine going up until her dismount."
Among those performances was a title-clinching 9.875 from Sloan, who fought through discomfort to clinch the 78th event win of her career.
In the wake of their closest defeat in eight years, the Gators have a perfect opportunity to bounce back.
The team hasn’t lost consecutive meets since 2006, and with a home date against Arkansas coming up this Friday, Florida will be looking to answer that bell.
"There are a lot of things we can learn from," Rowland said. "There were some stellar performances following some mistakes.
"Bouncing back and rebounding is really what this sport is all about."
Bridget Sloan performs on the balance beam during Florida's win against Alabama on Jan. 29, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.