Beginning at 6:45, tonight’s Link to Pink gymnastics meet will feature a dash of Razorback Red as No. 9 Arkansas readies to take on the No. 2 Gators in the O’Connell Center.
Coming off last week’s close loss to then-No. 11 Georgia, Florida (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) will look to resume its winning ways against a squad it has historically dominated.
The Gators have whipped their intraconference foes to the tune of a 35-3 all-time record, their most recent victory coming in last season’s NCAA Morgantown Regional.
However, competing against their third top-10 opponent in as many home meets this year, the Gators understand the challenge facing them on their home mat.
And, amped up in the wake of a .050-point defeat that cost them their No. 1 ranking, Florida’s gymnasts are chomping at the bit.
"I think it was a tough loss because we lost by a half a tenth, and that could be picked up in any of our routines on any event," sophomore Alex McMurtry said.
"I think we’re going to bounce back stronger than ever.
"We always have a little meet there in the season where we have some falls, we have some mistakes, but we’re hitting it hard in practice and we’re definitely going to show it off this weekend like we always do."
This meet, though, won’t yield as cut-and-dry a result as some might expect.
One of five SEC teams ranked in the top-10 nationally, the Razorbacks (3-4, 2-2 SEC) won’t be pushed aside easily.
Marred by inconsistency, they sit in fifth out of eight teams in conference standings.
However, two of their three wins on the year have come against SEC competition ranked top-10 nationwide, triumphing over then-No. 9 Auburn at home a week after upsetting then-No. 4 Alabama on the road.
Additionally, Arkansas has managed to climb the national leaderboards while fielding a lone all-around competitor — junior letterwoman and 2015 All-SEC selection Amanda Wellick, who was also named a second-team All-American on vault last year.
Joining Wellick on the mat is a quintet of senior gymnasts, headlined by 2015 All-SEC athlete Heather Elswick and 2012 second-team floor All-American Stephani Canizaro.
In facing yet another worthy opponent, Florida is seeking to learn from last week’s loss, hoping to avoid its first regular-season losing streak since 2006.
"I believe that everything happens for a reason," coach Jenny Rowland said, "and I feel that this weekend was a very good lesson for us. Sometimes, things like this, competitions like this refuel the heart, kind of builds the burn a little bit more, kind of makes them just focus a little bit more and realize those were just little, minor bumps in the road.
"It wasn’t anything we can’t overcome, and we’re ready to move forward and finish off the season."
Contact Alejandro Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ajlb95.
UF coach Jenny Rowland fist-bumps with Alex McMurtry during Florida's win over Alabama on Jan. 29, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.