For the Florida Gators’ gymnastics program, tonight’s meet concludes another regular season slate.
But for a quartet of senior athletes, it means exponentially more.
Taking the O’Connell Center mat for the final time in their collegiate careers at 6:45 p.m., Bridget Sloan, Bridgette Caquatto, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto and Morgan Frazier will be hoping to ride off into the sunset with another home victory in tow.
“It’s going to be an absolutely incredible meet,” Sloan said. “I know I’ve been looking forward to it. I think it’s just a moment where you get another opportunity to do your best.
“And, especially with the crowd that we have, I think it’s going to be an absolutely incredible, incredible time.”
Owning a collective 26 All-American selections, four All-SEC honors and a 2013 Honda Award, the 2016 senior class has left an indelible mark on the team’s history, aiding in the Gators’ three straight National Titles.
And, if all goes as planned, tonight’s showdown will springboard them into contention for a fourth consecutive title.
Closing its 44th year as a varsity program, No. 2 Florida (7-2) welcomes North Carolina to the O’Dome, owning a 19-1 all-time series record against the Tar Heels.
As far as opponents go, UNC (5-11) presents the weakest challenge the Gators have faced at home this season.
Pulling an average 192.400, the Tar Heels rank 58th in the nation, one spot ahead of Texas Woman’s University, an opponent that Florida overpowered in its season-opening meet.
Furthermore, if past results are any indicator of future performance, UNC failed to build any sort of momentum as its season wore on.
The Tar Heels’ 2016 team-high score of 194.275 came back on January 30th, and the squad has broken the 193.500-point plateau just once since then.
To put things in perspective, Florida hasn’t dipped below a 196.35.
On an individual scale, further analysis presents two different tales.
Carrying 14 rostered gymnasts to UNC’s 12, Florida’s depth is spread across all four classes, the graduating group of four counterbalanced by five freshmen and four sophomores.
The Tar Heels, on the other hand, are a youthful bunch, with two-thirds of their roster comprised of first and second-year athletes.
Their inexperience shows: Sophomore Morgan Lane owns UNC’s top all-around score of the year with a middling 39.30, and no all-arounders rank higher than 90th nationwide.
However, in spite of the overwhelming statistical talent gulf between the two clubs, Rowland doesn’t believe that complacency will befall her gymnasts.
“Competing in the O’Dome is very easy to get the girls up, no matter who the competition is,” Rowland said. “Senior night, on top of that, I think is going to be very easy to keep the girls excited.”
“It’s definitely going to be a really special night,” Caquatto said, “and it’s going to be really great to just honor us seniors and be able to stand along the class that I’ve gone through four years of college with.”
Contact Alejandro Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ajlb95.
Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor routine during Florida's win against Arkansas on Feb. 12, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.