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GymDog Rachael Lukacs sticks the landing 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)

The No. 8 Georgia GymDogs exuded confidence and established consistency in 2019’s dual meet closer, upsetting No. 6 Utah 197.525-197.450 in Stegeman Coliseum Saturday afternoon.

Georgia posted a team season high on vault, suffered no falls on bars, established consistency on beam and electrified the home crowd on floor, catapulting its score to its season-high 197.525.

“This was [a meet] where they’ve really stepped up as a team,” head coach Courtney Kupets Carter said. “That momentum is huge just to continue moving everything from one event to the next.”

The GymDogs started the meet on a powerful note Saturday afternoon, vaulting to a season-high 49.475 team total in the first rotation. Georgia entered the meet ranked No. 3 on vault, its best ranking in any event, and hadn’t hit a 49.4 since Feb. 1 against Arkansas.

Two freshmen recorded career highs on vault. Mikayla Magee counted a 9.875 with a stuck Yurchenko full, while Rachael Lukacs erupted in cheers following her difficult double-twisting Yurchenko vault that earned a 9.95. It was Lukacs’ eighth vault to earn a 9.9 or higher this season.

“I kind of surprised myself on that [vault],” Lukacs said. “I was like ‘oh my gosh, this is the best feeling.’”

Sydney Snead continued her consistency on vault, on which she ranks No. 3 nationally. Snead’s Yurchenko 1.5 earned a 9.9, ending the regular season without ever scoring below a 9.9 on vault.

On bars, the event where Georgia has struggled to establish consistency, the GymDogs had all six gymnasts go up without a fall.

While the GymDogs’ 49.275 mark didn’t set a season record, it was enough to maintain the lead over Utah at the midpoint. The performance also proved the GymDogs would be able to put up strong performances despite the loss of sophomore Emily Schild, a consistent bars performer who will be sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

“It’s tough knowing that [Schild] got hurt,” Lukacs said. “I’m just doing it for her because I know she’d want me to do my best and do it for her, so that’s what I’m doing. She gives me confidence.”

Sophomore Marissa Oakley’s anchor performance on bars earned a solid 9.925 for the GymDogs, while Lukacs tied last week’s career-high 9.825. Lukacs is finding her confidence in the event, as the freshman has filled in Schild’s spot in Georgia’s bar lineup the past two meets.

Georgia found its rhythm on beam Saturday, as it didn’t count a single score lower than 9.875 and recorded a 49.425, its second-highest beam score of the season.

The GymDogs capped off a solid rotation with two 9.9s in a row from freshman Rachel Baumann and junior Sabrina Vega. Two of Georgia’s most consistent beam performers, Baumann earned her third score of 9.9 or higher, while Saturday marked Vega’s eighth on the season and her fifth in a row.

Finishing up with crowd-pleasing performances on floor, Georgia elected to shift its lineup in the last rotation to place its senior Snead in the anchor spot for her final home dual meet. The GymDogs posted a 49.350 in the meet’s final rotation.

The GymDogs’ floor performance was highlighted by junior Rachel Dickson and Vega, posting strong scores of 9.925 and 9.9 respectively, sealing the top 10 victory.

“We’ve said [this team] has what it takes,” Kupets Carter said. “It’s just building that confidence and consistency through practice and competitions. They’re really getting there for postseason.”

The strong showing will serve as a confidence booster as Georgia turns its attention into next weekend’s SEC championship in New Orleans. The GymDogs will face three top-10 competitors once again, with No. 3 Florida. No. 4 LSU and No. 9 Kentucky on Saturday, March 23.

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