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Potential there, but Auburn falls to defending champs

Jan. 17, 2014

 Florida Gators
 Auburn Tigers

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AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn improved, led the defending NCAA champions after the first rotation and had a score that should bump up the Tigers in the national rankings. 

But Auburn coach Jeff Graba said his takeaway from Florida's 197.075 to 196.225 victory was improvement for his Tigers mixed with potential for a better days.   

"Two years ago," he said, "we would killed for a 196." 

The Tigers showed potential when they led the Gators after the first rotation thanks to a strong showing in the vault. The Tigers scored a 49.400 in that event, one-tenth of a point short of the school record. 

A big crowd of 5,588 cheered that in Auburn Arena. 

Bri Guy led the way, equaling her career high with a 9.95 in the vault and also scoring a 9.90 in the floor. Lexus Demers set a career high with a 9.825 in the vault and M.J. Rott had a career high with a 9.900 in the vault. Kelsey Kopec had a career high in the bars with a 9.824. Kait Kluz had a career high in the floor with a 9.775. Guy finished second in the all-around to Florida's Bridget Sloan, who won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics as part of the U.S. team. She won three of the four events Friday. 

Auburn was looking for more consistency, too. 

"We had a really good vault, and everything else needs to improve considerably," Graba said. 

It was Auburn's first real test of the season after opening last week with a win over Texas Woman's University. Graba said his team may have gotten caught up Friday competing against the defending champs. 

"I'd like to say no... but I'm still not convinced that the young people have settled down and really can focus on what they're doing," Graba said. "Gymnastics is not about the other team, but it's real easy to get caught up in the other team. It's not about the environment, but it's easy to get caught up in the environment. If you don't control all of that, it can get you out of your game plan pretty quickly. 

"For us to go out and break a 196 with pretty poor performance, I'm pretty excited about that." 

Graba said the score was not because of a lack of effort. 

"We were talking about grit tonight. We were talking about the girls just trying to stay focused. They did a much better job of that," Graba said. "We still had some hiccups along the way we need to work on, but a much better performance. It was actually fun to watch some grit and determination against a really good team."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter:




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