Jan. 7, 2010
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AUBURN, Ala. - The No. 14 Auburn gymnastics team welcomes No. 3 Alabama to Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum Friday at 7 p.m. for the season-opener for both squads. The meet will also serve as the final home opener for the Tigers in the history of Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum as the Tigers will move across the street to Auburn Arena for the 2011 campaign. FSN will tape-delay coverage of the meet on Jan. 16 at 10 p.m. Friday's matchup marks the 106th meeting between the Tigers and Crimson Tide.
Last season, Auburn fell to the Crimson Tide by the slightest margin in series history, 195.675-195.650 (.025), on Jan. 9, 2009 in Auburn. The Tide followed up the victory by knocking off the Tigers again on Feb. 27, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, 197.350-196.175 to sweep the season series.
Auburn returns 14 letterwinners from last year's squad that compiled a 11-13 overall mark and a 3-3 SEC record. The 2009 version of the Tigers placed fifth at the SEC Championships and fourth at the NCAA West Regional in Seattle.
After being ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation and in the top-10 for the first nine weeks of the year, the Tigers closed out their season ranked No. 11 following a fourth place finish in the NCAA West Regional in Seattle.
Auburn will rely heavily on underclassmen in 2010, as the squad features seven sophomores and six freshman.
Of the 19 gymnasts on this year's roster, nine have competed in a collegiate meet.
Thirteen states are represented by this year's team, with only one gymnast hailing from the Yellowhammer State. Both Maryland and Florida are the homes to three Tigers apiece.
Auburn seeks to replace a trio of solid seniors from a year ago in Lindsay Puckett, A.J. Mills and Claire Seiffert. The trio combined for 80 career titles (Puckett 48, Mills 31, Seiffert 1) in their time at Auburn.
"The thing we used to talk about a lot was hitting 24-of-24 routines, and that created a lot of unneeded pressure for us. This year we realized that we don't have to hit all 24, we just have to hit 5-of-6. If you're the one that falls this meet, your teammates have your back and we'll go from there," said head coach Jeff Thompson of the teams philosophy this season.
Alabama enters the 2010 season looking to defend its 2009 SEC Championship and NCAA Regional title. Alabama will be searching for its seventh SEC title in program history as well as its 25th Regional title.
The Crimson Tide won't be lacking any firepower this year, as first-team All-Americans Morgan Dennis and Ricki Lebegern return. Dennis also captured the SEC Vault Championship as well as the SEC and NCAA Northeast Regional Floor Championships. Lebegern was a first-team All-American on the balance beam, as well as a second-team All-American in the all-around. Additionally, she was a second-team All-SEC performer on the floor exercise.
Also returning is sophomore Ashley Preiss, who earned a quartet of All-American honors in her freshman season. She took home first-team honors on the balance beam as well as the uneven bars, and earned second-team accolades in the all-around and floor exercise. Additionally, she was named second-team All-SEC and was a member of the freshman All-SEC team, and was named SEC Freshman of the Week a conference record five times.
Alabama had a pair of other rising sophomore join Preiss on the Freshman All-SEC team in Geralen Stack-Eaton and Caitlin Sullivan.
Another freshman, Rachel Terry, earned second-team All-American honors on the vault.
"Beat Bama" koozies will also be distributed to the first 300 fans, courtesy of Auburn Bank. Additionally, your favorite Auburn gymnasts will be available for an autograph session following the conclusion of the meet.