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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)

An electric crowd packed Stegeman Coliseum for the highly-anticipated rivalry in Athens on Friday night. The crowd mirrored the GymDogs’ energy that carried over a year later after then-No. 7 Georgia upset then-No. 3 Florida in Gainesville last season.

This spark dwindled from the night as No. 10 Georgia could not find their rhythm, and they fell to No. 2 Florida 197.8-196.5. The GymDogs could not manage to hit a 197 at home. This has not happened since Georgia lost to LSU on Jan. 10.

“It was not the meet we wanted,” head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said.

The GymDogs began the night on vault and scored one point lower than their win against Kentucky on Feb. 21 with a 49.275. Sophomore Rachael Lukacs led the way and matched her 9.925 career-high score. Sophomore Abbey Ward and senior Sabrina Vega scored 9.875s. Sophomores Mikayla Magee, Rachel Baumann and freshman Soraya Hawthorne contributed 9.8s.

The GymDogs aimed to focus on the bigger picture beyond the rivalry hype and tried to calm the anticipation. Baumann discussed that this mentality continued throughout the meet even during the difficult moments.

“We were all going back to why we do this sport, why we love it, and why we’re here,” Baumann said. “At the end of the day, that’s why it matters.”

The pace began to slow when Georgia found difficulty on bars for the second rotation of the night and scored a 48.9. Sophomore Megan Roberts had the highest score of the night at a 9.85, and junior Marissa Oakley followed closely behind with a 9.825. Vega hit a season-high score of 9.775. Lukacs and freshman Haley de Jong contributed a pair of 9.725s.

The GymDogs scored a 49.175 on beam for the third rotation and managed to find some newfound energy as Baumann and Vega both hit 9.9s. Magee scored 9.85 and de Jong hit a 9.825. Hawthorne scored a 9.7. Oakley suffered a fall and scored a 9.15, which did not count.

Georgia finished on floor at a 49.15 — its lowest score since Jan. 25 at the Metroplex Challenge. Vega had the highest score of the night in the anchor position at 9.9. Sophomores Alyssa Perez-Lugones and Lukacs both posted 9.825s. Roberts and Baumann contributed 9.8s.

Kupets Carter noted that even with the various struggles tonight, certain individual performances highlighted some positive notes to keep a fighting spirit intact for Georgia moving forward.

“We had three athletes today who came up with three of their big routines,” Kupets Carter said. “Rachael Lukacs had her vault, Baumann at a really crucial time on beam came up with one of her best routines I’ve seen all year, and Sabrina Vega finishing up on beam [and] on floor.”

Although not the desired outcome, Kupets Carter acknowledged that these leaders for Georgia still stepped up to provide some momentum to finish strong.

Georgia will continue its season in Tuscaloosa to face Alabama on March 7.

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