Alyssa Baumann

Sophomore gymnast Alyssa Baumann earned SEC Specialist of the Week for her performance against Oklahoma on Friday.

 

There are only two SEC gymnastics teams unbeaten in conference play. Come tonight, there will only be one.

The No. 2 Gators (3-1, 3-0 SEC) host the No. 12 Auburn Tigers (5-0, 4-0 SEC) tonight at the O’Connell Center for the “Link to Pink” event in support of breast cancer awareness. Florida enters the meet looking to regain momentum after a close loss to Oklahoma, and the Tigers hope to remain unbeaten after beating the Kentucky Wildcats at home.

Here’s what to expect from both of the SEC’s top programs when they step on the mat tonight.

Tigers by the Tail

The Auburn Tigers are the third tiger team UF will face this year, and they’ll be far from its easiest opponent.

Auburn hasn’t defeated Florida in the O’Connell Center since 2004, and it’ll brave the arena once again with five wins under its belt, including victories over No. 5 LSU and No. 6 Georgia.

One gymnast to watch is freshman Derrian Gobourne, a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week winner this season. Gobourne had a 9.950 on the floor in the team’s meet against Georgia and shared the all-around title with teammate Drew Watson with a score of 39.350 against Kentucky.

While Auburn has yet to lose, its last two meets have been staggeringly close. The Tigers only beat Georgia by .375, and their last meet against Kentucky was a very tight 196.125-196.000.

When the Tigers come to the O’Connell Center tonight, they’ll be worrying about themselves, not the Gators.

“I think it’s really important just because you don’t need to look at anybody else’s scores,” Watson said in a release. “We are with ourselves, and I think that we have enough competitiveness within our team that we don’t need to look outside at that.”

The Lighter Orange and Blue

The Gators didn’t do quite enough to knock off Oklahoma on the road last Friday, but they’re certainly still feeling confident after the loss.

The team’s 198.025 was its highest score on the year, and it featured performances from sophomore Alyssa Baumann and freshman Trinity Thomas that earned them the SEC Specialist of the Week and SEC Freshman of the Week awards, respectively. Thomas has won an SEC award every week of the season.

Senior Alicia Boren noted Auburn’s impressive record but didn’t look past her own team.

“Auburn is really good, and they’ve improved a lot this year,” she said. “But we keep getting better, as well.”

UF will look to shape up its vault landings, which have contributed to the lower scores in the event this season, while continuing its success on events like the bars and the beam, where it is tied for and holds the season high, respectively.

The Gators may be aware of Auburn’s status as the only other undefeated team in conference play, but they’re ready to step up to the challenge head on come tonight.

“That’ll be fun,” Thomas said of the meet on Wednesday. “That’ll be interesting. We’re excited, we’re ready, and we can’t wait to take on Auburn.”

Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected]

River Wells is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women’s tennis team. He has previously covered UF swimming and diving. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.