April 1, 2011
TUSCALOOSA - The No. 22 Auburn gymnastics team continues in post-season competition this weekend, as the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Tuscaloosa NCAA Regional beginning Saturday, April 2, at 6 p.m. CT.
"My feeling is we need to go out and do our 24 routines as best we can and let the chips fall where they may because we don't have any control over the scoring and the results," Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said. "I do feel like we're competitive with anybody out there if we can do our 24 routines and if we can do them sharply. The goal is to try to focus ourselves to do as good a job as we can. I feel we're going to be in pretty good shape at the end of the day."
Auburn enters the meet with great momentum coming off the end of the regular season and looks to carry that into this Saturday's competition.
"I feel like we have been building confidence in the last few meets," junior Kylie Shields said. "We are going to go in as a team and be at our strongest and really peak when it's appropriate unlike past seasons. I am confident in myself and in my teammates that we will hit the 24-for-24 routines, and I think we will surprise a few people when we hit like that. If the scoring is on our side and if the judges see that we are capable of doing what we are performing, I feel like things could line up pretty well for us."
The Tigers were selected as the No. 4 seed, and will take on a region that features the host school, No. 2 Alabama, as well as No. 11 Penn State, No. 14 Illinois, No. 25 Central Michigan and Kentucky. Auburn will face one of the toughest regionals in the country, as five of the six teams are ranked in the top 25.
"To me, it's very similar to SECs where there were a lot of really quality teams," Graba said. "You can have a really good night and still not be as successful as you like just simply because everybody at the SECs was capable of a really good night. Everybody at this regional will be also. I feel like that has prepared us for this meet in a lot of ways.
"Again it's really about how we do. We need to do as well as we did two weeks ago, but we have to be a little sharper about the little things. In the end, you just have to do your best because we don't have any idea how the other teams are going to handle pressure. We don't have any idea how the judges are going to judge us or judge anybody else so we just have to go in and do our job and see what happens."
The No. 1 seed, Alabama, posted a score of 197.225 for its seventh conference title at SEC Championship on March 19. The team is 17-1 this season with a season-high team score of 197.675. The second-ranked Crimson Tide holds a 197.120 regional qualifying score (RQS).
The No. 2 seed, Penn State, will travel to Tuscaloosa for the second time this season after competing there on Jan. 7, while falling to Alabama 195.350-192.750.
The Nittany Lions are 18-5 this season and received their highest score on March 4 tallying a 197.075. The team finished second at the Big Ten Championship with a score of 196.375. Penn State is currently ranked No. 11 in the top 25 and enters the competition with a RQS of 196.210.
The No. 3 seed, Illinois, is ranked No. 14 nationally and placed third behind Penn State at the Big Ten Championship scoring a 196.075. This is the Illini's 24th trip to an NCAA Regional and the second year in a row competing at the site of the central regional. The team qualified for the regional with a 195.925 RQS.
No. 5 seed Central Michigan enters the national top 25 this week for the first time this this season after a first-place finish in the Mid-American Conference Championship. This is the second year in a row that the Chippewas have had a first-place finish. Central Michigan is 23-1 on the season and has a season high of 195.900. The Chippewas have acquired an RQS of 195.190 this season.
The Kentucky Wildcats are the No. 6 seed and have seen both Alabama and Auburn already this season. The Wildcats are 9-15 overall and will appear in an NCAA Regional for the seventh consecutive time and the 23rd time in school history. The team placed seventh at the SEC Championship scoring a 193.950. Kentucky has a regional qualifying score of 194.945.
This will be the eighth-straight year that Auburn has advanced to an NCAA regional. The Tigers last competed at Alabama in an NCAA regional in 2005, finishing third with a score of 194.800. Two years prior to that meet, Auburn had its highest finish at a NCAA regional on April 6, 2003, in Tuscaloosa, placing second, with a score of 196.350. That same year the team went on to the NCAA Championship for the third time and placed 12th on April 24 in Lincoln, Neb.
At the meet, Auburn will begin the competition on bars followed by beam. The Tigers will then have their first bye before heading to floor. Vault will be the final event for Auburn before ending the competition on a second bye.
Regional tickets are available now through RollTide.com and the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum on Alabama's campus. Adult tickets are $12 and youth tickets are $8.