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Top-Ranked Georgia Squeezes Past No. 13 Auburn

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Feb. 24, 2006

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn posted its second-highest score of the year, but it was not enough as No. 1 Georgia was able to fend off the 13th-ranked Tigers by the closest margin in series history, 196.550-196.150, in front of a crowd of 4,327 on Friday at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.

After holding a 148.350-147.025 following the third rotation, Georgia's Tiffany Tolnay and Nikki Childs each fell on beam, which opened the door for Auburn (7-8, 1-4 SEC). With the tension mounting and Georgia (12-0, 5-0 SEC) clinging to its lead, Nicole Barnett posted a career-best 9.875 on floor before the Gym Dogs were able to secure the win with scores of 9.925 and 9.900 in their fifth and sixth routines by former Olympian Courtney Kupets and 2005 All-American Katie Heenan, respectively.

"We said before the meet that they are much more afraid of losing to us than we are to losing to them and I really think that came into play when their first gymnast fell on beam," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We had already prepared the team for the possibility of them falling, and that is why they handled the pressure so well."

In a meet where Georgia scored the highest score of any team this year on bars with a 49.475 and also posted its second-highest score of the year on vault and floor, the Tigers never succumbed to the pressure of facing the No. 1 team.

"We hit all 24 routines tonight and our goal has been to hit and have fun," Thompson said. "When you hit, you have fun and that's what we did. Not only did we have fun, the fans had fun. Georgia was unbelievable on three events, and for us to hit all of our routines was impressive."

Although Georgia stayed perfect on the year and perfect in the all-time series with the Tigers (55-0), the Gym Dogs' margin of victory of four-tenths was the fewest in series history. Prior to tonight, the Tigers' closest loss to Georgia was by 1.4 points (197.975-196.475) in 2003 at Georgia.



Individually, Julie Dwyer finished second in the all-around and matched her career high and the second-highest score in school history with a 39.500. Dwyer posted the same score at LSU on Feb. 17. Kupets won the all-around title for Georgia with a 39.675. Georgia was able to win all four event crowns and won three of four events as a team. Dwyer also had the top individual in an event for the Tigers, tying for second on beam with a 9.900.

Opening on vault, Auburn notched a 49.050 for its fourth-highest score of the season on the event. The Tigers' score on vault came just one week after setting the school record with a 49.375 at LSU. Pacing the Tigers on vault was Julie Dwyer who tied the second-highest score of her career with a 9.875. Karmen Pinckney matched her season high with a 9.850. Claire Seiffert recorded the second-highest score of her career with a 9.825. Vaulting fifth for the Tigers, Lindsey Puckett scored a 9.800. Danielle Holtz vaulted a 9.700 to open the event for the Tigers.

Following the first rotation, Georgia held a 49.475-49.050 lead over the Tigers. Georgia's score on bars was the highest by any SEC team this season, topping the Gym Dogs' score of 49.450 vs. UCLA.

In the second rotation, the Tigers posted their third-highest mark of the year with a 49.000. Dwyer led the Tigers with a career-high score of 9.875 to anchor the Tigers' lineup. Puckett scored the second-highest score of her career as she posted a 9.825. Alicia Lenkiewicz also posted the second-highest score of her career, finishing with a 9.775. Going second in the lineup for the Tigers, Aimee Goheen recorded a 9.775. A.J. Mills led off the event for the first time in her career, scoring a 9.750.

Following the second rotation, the Gym Dogs held a 98.975-98.050 lead, after recording the second-highest score of the year in the SEC on vault with a 49.500.

On beam in the third rotation, the Tigers posted a 48.975. Leading the way for the Tigers with a 9.900 was Dwyer. Dwyer's score of 9.900 tied for the second-highest score of her career. Lindsey Puckett turned in a 9.875 for her second-highest score of her career. Competing second on beam, Kayla Gies scored a 9.750. Competing in her only event of the meet, Shanna Somero opened with a 9.725. Matching Somero's score of 9.725 was Lenkiewicz, who tied her second-highest score of her career.

At the conclusion of the third rotation, Georgia held a 148.350-147.025 lead. Performing on floor, Georgia matched the second-highest score in the SEC this season with a 49.375.

Auburn concluded the meet on floor with a 49.100. Dwyer paced the Tigers by tying her career high with a 9.900. Puckett secured the second-highest score of her career with a 9.875. Performing fourth and in need of a big score to boost the Tigers chances, Nicole Barnett did just that by setting a career high with a 9.875. Barnett topped her previous high score of 9.850. Holtz led off the event for Auburn, scoring a 9.700. Performing second for the Tigers, Seiffert finished with a 9.775.

Up next for Auburn is a trip to Arkansas to face the Lady Backs on March 3 at 7 p.m.

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