Gymnastics looks to build on less than ideal start

The Alabama gymnastics team started its 2016 season off with a loss, but so what? Senior Carley Sims isn’t worried.

“That first meet was good to get the jitters out so I think there is nowhere but up from here,” Sims said.

The No. 6 UCLA Bruins finished with a 196.550 on Sunday, surpassing No. 3 Alabama’s 196.300.

It was the teams’ first meet of the 2016 season, and for some gymnasts, it was their first collegiate level meet ever. Of the six new Crimson Tide members, freshmen Jenna Bresette and Angelina Giancroce made their debuts on Sunday. Bresette scored a 9.675 on the vault and Giancroce scored a 9.825 on the floor exercise.

Giancroce said it felt good to hit her routine. She focused on just having fun and being confident in herself.

“It didn’t hit me until after I finished that I just competed for the first time for the University of Alabama,” Giancroce said. “Once it hit me, it was just a little bit more of a surreal moment because you train your whole life for that.”

Alabama coach Dana Duckworth thought both freshmen handled their first collegiate experience well, but the inexperience was still noticeable and allowed the rookies to get a little ahead of themselves. In the end, she said Giancroce adjusted well and Bresette learned what she needs to do in order to become more successful.

Starting her second season as Alabama’s head coach, Duckworth is preaching true mental toughness to her team for 2016, but that true mental toughness didn’t translate on Sunday as much as she hoped it would, and it showed against UCLA.

“I think the biggest thing we can improve on is continuing to do what we do every day and transitioning it into the competition,” Duckworth said. “We really went into it asking the ladies, ‘Don’t go any bigger. Don’t go any better. Don’t do it differently,’ and the problem areas we had [Sunday] were because we changed what we do.”

Duckworth thought Alabama’s performances on the vault were “less than stellar.” She wanted tall vaults where the gymnasts don’t worry so much about sticking, just staying straight. Instead, she got the opposite.

“What happened was, specifically, a couple of girls tried so hard to stick their vaults that they faltered – chest down, step forward,” she said.

Sims also said, on the bars, the team needs to have faster adjustments and cleaner dismounts, just like it practices.

It’s the little finishes that’ll make a difference.

Sims, who – along with junior Katie Bailey – led the Crimson Tide on the floor exercise with a 9.9, said the team is mentally tough, which allowed it to pull itself together after the loss.

Alabama knows what it needs to focus on in order to do better from here on out.

“We have a lot of things we need to work on, and we’re aware of that,” Giancroce said.

Sunday’s loss was disappointing, but Alabama is already moving forward. It has taken what went wrong on Sunday and is focusing on what it can do better for its home meet against Missouri on Friday.

It’s all about learning from – and not repeating – previous mistakes.

“You don’t lose unless you quit,” Sims said.

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