Georgia’s Rachel Baumann leaps in the air during her floor routine. The University of Georgia GymDogs hosted Iowa State and won with a final score of 197.325 - 196.625 on Jan. 20, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Editor's Note: The photo was taken at a separate gymnastics event in January 2020 before social distancing guidelines were enforced.

Georgia gymnastics earned its first win of the 2021 season Friday night, defeating Missouri 196.15–194.25 in Stegeman Coliseum.

The GymDogs did not get a chance to compete against the Tigers in 2020 due to COVID-19, but made up for it by outscoring Missouri in every event in the season opener. 

“We were so thankful today to have our first competition, it's been a long build-up since May,” said head coach Courtney Kupets Carter. “We have our new freshmen with us and it's a special year for our seniors, so this was a special meet, where we just wanted to embrace every moment, enjoy it, and create energy from this team. I was really proud of them for that, this is a great starting point for this team.”

Georgia gymnastics has undergone multiple lineup changes since the 2020 season in all four events, with the most significant being Amanda Cashman’s return after tearing her Achilles tendon in February, all-around Rachael Lukacs absence due to a broken finger and freshman Victoria Nguyen’s arrival in all four events. 

Georgia began the night on vault, scoring a 48.875 in the event overall. Junior Mikayla Magee led the charge for the GymDogs with the lineup’s only score over 9.775, with a 9.925. The vault lineup has undergone critical changes since the last meet of the 2020 season, with Lukacs, Cashman and graduated Sabrina Vega absent.

On bars, the GymDogs recorded a score of 49.325, which is a higher score than they accomplished in all of last year’s meets. 

“I really do think those last four in the lineup [have] performed well all fall on bars,” Kupets Carter said. “They've really put in the work this fall. And so they will continue to increase their ability and maintain it.” 

All-around gymnast Nguyen started her collegiate career on the right foot on Friday night, earning the highest bars score with a 9.95 and scoring a 39.4 across all events. 

Bars proved to be an inconsistent event for Georgia last year as the Gymdogs suffered numerous falls and took home overall scores ranging from 48.05 to 49.75. 

The GymDogs’ beam lineup showcased old and new talent, earning them an overall score of 48.875. Magee, Nguyen and Alyssa Perez-Lugones earned the highest scores for Georgia. Despite not even being an alternate on beam last season, Perez-Lugones’ score outshone veterans Rachel Baumann’s and Marissa Oakley’s after the pair almost counted a fall each in their routines. 

Kupets Carter noted that each event’s lineup is subject to a lot of change in the coming weeks as gymnasts compete for time on the mat during practice. Not every gymnast that was expected to see the floor did on Friday. 

Baumann and Nguyen earned Georgia its highest scores on floor, scoring 9.875 and 9.85, respectively. The final event of the night saw the closest score margin to Missouri but the Gymdogs topped the Tigers to finish the evening on a high note. 

In a stark difference to last year’s crowds found in Stegeman Coliseum, this season’s meets will only allow 20% of seats to be filled. Thousands of seats remained empty Friday night. The energy and home advantage at Stegeman Coliseum was a consistent bright spot and motivator for the GymDogs last year. The absence of a large crowd is felt among the team when performing, Baumann said. 

“We were prepared for it and we knew it was going to be different, but the atmosphere within the team was really good and I think that’s what kept the energy up,” she said. 

The GymDogs will travel to Gainesville, Florida, next week to take on the Gators. Georgia fell to Florida last season 196.5-197.8. 

“The biggest part of tonight that made me so proud of them is that they stayed connected,” Kupets Carter said. “And when you stay connected, you're stronger as a team. They continue to work together as a team and that's what's going to continue to propel them for next week, especially, going down to Florida.”