Priess leads Tide to NCAA-best 28 Regional winsBy Marquavius Burnett | 04/07/2013 11:00pm
Ashley Priess admitted she was a little frustrated about not competing in the all-around throughout the season.
She said she was antsy to compete and felt like she was ready earlier this year, but trusted the judgment of her coaches and waited her turn with every passing week.
Priess and the coaching staff went into the season with a plan to pace Priess to avoid wearing down her two surgically repaired ankles.
The fifth-year senior’s turn came Saturday as she competed in the all-around for the first time since the 2012 NCAAs – helping the No. 3 Crimson Tide cruise through the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional with a score of 197.400 points to advance to the NCAA Championships.
The victory gave Alabama its nation-best 28th win at Regionals. Priess led the way with a 39.600 score in the all-around, just .025 shy of her career-best.
“It was like, ‘yeah, it’s clicking. They were right, this is exactly where I need to be, my body feels good,’” Priess said. “Had I taken that a few weeks earlier, I may not be as healthy as I am at this point.”
Priess got the opportunity in large part because of injuries and shuffling throughout the Tide’s line up. With senior Marissa Gutierrez still feeling the lingering effects of an ankle injury, Priess stepped up and filled her spot in the vault line up.
“Ashley is the epitome of Alabama gymnastics because she peaks at the right time,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “She hasn’t been in the all-around all year, and part of it was she wanted to go and her coach said no.”
“I just felt like we’ve kind of paced Ashley and she’s paced herself. There’s been a time where she’s been ready to go and I’ve held her back because I know how valuable she is to our team.”
Priess’ teammates never lost confidence in her and were excited to have her back in the all-around.
“We all knew she could do it,” junior Kim Jacob said. “We knew from the beginning of the season she could do it. This is the time we really need her. The coaches know exactly when she was ready. It was the perfect time for her to come out. I’m so proud of her.”
Patterson called Saturday’s Regional competition the toughest meet of the season because of the pressure it put on teams, but feels confident her team will be ready for nationals.
“If you’re having mistakes, and you’re having to count those falls, it can change things very quickly,” Patterson said. “Now, I think we can go into UCLA and I think we can compete the way we competed at SECs. That was, we were fearless. We went for it all and tonight was all about advancing.”
Along with Alabama, No. 9 Utah finished in second place with a score of 196.4 to advance to its 32nd consecutive NCAA Championships.
The NCAA Championships will take place April 19-20 NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, Calif.