Georgia head coach Courtney Kupets-Carter speaks to an assistant coach during a meet against Utah at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Georgia GymDogs defeated the Utah Red Rocks 197.525 to 197.450. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

NEW ORLEANS — At this time last season, almost everything was different for the GymDogs.

Georgia entered the 2018 SEC Gymnastics Championship as the No. 7 seed under first-year head coach Courtney Kupets Carter. In Kupets Carter’s second season, the GymDogs will compete in Session II after earning the No. 3 seed for the first time since 2013.

It’s only been two years since the GymDogs competed in the night session, but to Kupets Carter, that represents a long time for a program so acclimated to success.

“I honestly didn’t even recall how long it had been since Georgia had been in the night session … I had to step back and think, ’Oh wow, this has been a long time’,” Kupets Carter said. “But for this team, it’s something they expect of themselves.”

When Missouri became the eighth SEC gymnastics team in 2013, the conference changed the championship into a two-session format similar to the NCAA Championships. The SEC splits the event into two sessions of four teams each.

The seeding is based on Georgia’s National Qualifying Score (NQS) of 197.195, which ranks eighth in the nation. Last year, the GymDogs were No. 18 with an NQS of 196.470.

Georgia’s improved regular season hasn’t been the only change. For the first time in the 38-year history of the SEC Championship, New Orleans will host the event.

The team arrived on Friday night and ate a meal from The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. Senior Sydney Snead likes what she sees from the city so far.

“The streets are so fun,” Snead said. “[It’s] colorful everywhere, the people are so awesome. We love it.”

The team’s 11 freshman have also been a welcome change. They may lack experience at the SEC Championship, but they had a major role in propelling the GymDogs to success.

“They’ve risen to the occasion plenty of times,” junior Sabrina Vega said.

Despite the team’s success this season, Vega said the team doesn’t feel any heightened pressure.

“I just think it’s a reward,” Vega said. “[There aren’t] really higher expectations, just the normal go in, do your routine for your team.”

Amid all the changes, one thing remains the same: Georgia’s attitude.

“They’re excited and they’re ready to go,” Kupets Carter said. “They’re approaching it in a really great way. They’re not here as ‘oh wow, we’re back here’. We belong here.”

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