March 10, 2011
AUBURN - The 24th-ranked Auburn gymnastics team (5-6, 2-4 SEC) prepares to take on Southeast Missouri (8-7, 5-2 MIC), as the Tigers finish out the regular season at home after competing in two meets on the road last weekend.
"We felt like we weren't full strength the first six meets of the year so these last four meets have built on the other, not just with score but with hit ratio," Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said. "This one is extremely important to us because we don't want to take a step back. We want to continue to improve as we move into the most important part of our season."
This is the 14th meeting between the two schools, with Auburn leading the series 11-2. In the last meeting, the Tigers defeated SEMO 193.525-190.200 in Auburn at a tri-way meet on March 11, 2000.
Auburn will utilize the same lineups from Monday's meet at Southern Utah and are hoping to continue building on their success from the previous three meets.
After posting a 49.050 on bars at Southern Utah, the Tigers have now scored a 49.000 or better on each event.
"We had to get over the hump initially," Graba said. "We had a lot of people who are inexperienced on the events and they are still in our lineup. They had to work through the kinks and realize that they could hit on a consistent basis. As each event has progressed, we have been able to prove that we can go six out of six on that event. I feel in the last four meets we have finally done that.
"Along with that, we have also proven that we can go 49.000 on each event which I do think helps the girls feel confident there. You don't have any control over what the judges give you, but I do feel like we have proven our capability. I do believe we are a 196.000 team when we are hitting."
Auburn welcomes back SEMO head coach Kristi Ewasko, who graduated with a degree in Exercise Science from Auburn in 2004. As a gymnast, she competed for four years as the top vault competitor for the Tigers' perennial top-20 program. Ewasko recorded Auburn's top two vault scores in school history, including the all-time mark of 9.950 which she set against Florida in 2003.
The Tigers are looking to get their sixth win of the season against a quality opponent while also improving their scores moving into post-season competition.
"For us, they are a good team so we actually have to be pretty good about what we do on Friday night," Graba said. "In the bigger picture, Friday night really matters because we really need to take a step forward as we move into next weekend. As far as I'm concerned regardless of whoever is on the other side, we still need to do a good job."
At Friday's meet, the three graduating seniors in Lauren Brzostowski, Katie Hurley and Rachel Inniss will be recognized prior to the competition for senior night.
"This past year has been such a transition year." Graba said. "I got here the day before school started and without the senior leadership, this could've been a really difficult year. It's been difficult, but it's been as good as it could possibly be because of the seniors. I don't know how we would've transitioned this well without them. To me, part of Friday night is thanking them. Even if they are not on a piece of equipment or in one of our lineups, that doesn't mean they haven't been critical in the transition of the program and setting the foundation for what comes after this."
The Tigers will face SEMO on Friday night at the Auburn Arena at 7 p.m. CT. The first 1,000 fans will receive a senior poster upon entry. It is also Local Churches Night where fans can attend the meet for free with a valid church bulletin. There is a limit of two per family.
A live blog during Friday's meet can be accessed at www.auburntigers.com.