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No. 3 Missouri heads to No. 4 Alabama for Friday Night Heights

Mizzou is ready to take the SEC by storm. First up, a date with the no. 4 Crimson Tide on Friday night

Mizzou’s Jocelyn Moore finishes out a spectacular floor routine, tying the school record with an astonishing 9.975 performance on Saturday.
Mizzou Athletics

Friday Night Heights, friends. It’s here! And who would have thought we’d be looking at a matchup in Week 2 of the 2024 season between the two highest-ranking teams in the SEC, situated no. 3 and no. 4, respectively, in the Road to Nationals rankings? This is going to be a FUN ONE. I’ll be your hostess with the mostest, your guide to the twisting n tumbling Tigers of CoMo.

Let’s get started.


Meet Info

When: Friday, January 12

Where: Coleman Coliseum | Tuscaloosa, AL

Time: 6:00 p.m. CST

TV: SEC Network, part of Friday Night Heights show

STATS: Statbroadcast

MEET NOTES: Missouri | Alabama

History: In the all-time series against Bama, Missouri trails the Tide, 1-44. However, the victory came in 2023, when the Tide came to Hearnes and were washed right out of CoMo, 197.075 to 196.750. In 2022, Mizzou lost in a heartbreaker, 197.500 to 196.775 in Tuscaloosa.

Fun-ish Facts: Alabama has finished a season ranked no worse than 12th since 1998. A team that, in the last 10 years, has finished 4th, 4th, 3rd, 6th, 8th, 12th, 8th, 5th, 7th and 10th (2023). Their coach, Ashley Johnston, is in her second year at the helm.

Shannon Welker took over for Mizzou in 2014, and has turned the Tigers into a top-15-20 team annually. His first year they were ranked 41st, but after that: 21st, 19th, 17th, 20th, 17th, 14th, 14th, 14th, 5th and 14th (2023).


Last Time On The Mats

When we last saw our Tigers, they very convincingly took down the Lindenwood Lions (SAVE LU GYM!) Northern Illinois and SEMO last Saturday at Hearnes, breaking a program record for highest score in a season opener with 197.150. Per my recap, last year it took Missouri 7 meets to hit the 197 total point threshold. This year, they needed just one. Let’s recap quickly.

First rotation (MIZ vault): Event champions: Hannah Horton & Amari Celestine (tied- 9.875) | MIZ 49.20 — SEMO 48.625 — NIU 48.425 — LU 47.60

Second rotation (MIZ bars): Event champion: Hollyn Patrick (9.875) - her highest score since notching a 9.95 in the 2022 season | MIZ 49.175 (98.375) — SEMO 48.70 (96.300) — NIU 48.25 (96.675)— LU 47.80 (96.425)

Third rotation (MIZ beam): Event champion: Sienna Schreiber (9.925) | MIZ 49.275 (147.65) — LU 48.90 (146.05) — SEMO 48.775 (144.575) — NIU 47.65 (144.325)

Final rotation (MIZ floor): Event champion: Jocelyn Moore (9.975) | MIZ 49.45 — NIU 48.45 — SEMO 48.20 — LU 47.85

Totals: MIZZOU 197.150 — LINDENWOOD 194.000 (-3.15) — SEMO & N. ILLINOIS 192.775 (-4.375)

Alabama is coming off a big Super 16 win in Vegas over powerhouses Auburn, Cal and UCLA, hitting 197 in their first meet of the season for the first time in a decade.

SEE?! It’s crazy good and not all that common to start out with a 197 right outta the gates!

Anyway, back to the Bama meet. The win wasn’t decided until the final competitor, Luisa Blanco, whom I LOVE, knocked it out of the gym with a 10.0 on beam to secure the victory.


What To Expect At The Venue

Coleman Coliseum is a 15,383-seat arena that serves as the home of Alabama men’s & women’s basketball and women’s gymnastics. It previously was also the home of the women’s volleyball program but they moved to a different facility. With its theatre-style seating, state-of-the-art video boards and massive four-sided jumbotron thingy, it is a great spot to check out a gymnastics meet, and has been used for various NCAA gymnastics championships, SEC championships, and most recently, the NCAA Regional Championship in 2018. (courtesy of RollTide.com)

This dual meet will serve as the Tide’s home opener, and their 2023 home attendance averaged 10,915 with a max crowd of 13.224. In fact, they regularly average about 10k a season, so we should expect a loud and raucous environment. (data via RoadtoNationals.com)

From Tide Head Coach Ashley Johnston:

“I’m really proud of our team and the work they’re putting in. We intentionally scheduled a really competitive matchup [last weekend] to be prepared to compete at the highest of levels and against the toughest of opponents. Friday night is no different - Missouri is a really strong team. They’ve been on the rise for a few years now and have really made their mark as national contenders. It’s going to be a big night and we cannot wait to be back in front of our fans.”

Alabama Athletics

Quick Comparisons

[Charts in team colors created by Karen, with stats from RoadtoNationals.com, a great website]


Records to Watch

  • Overall Score: 197.85, scored at no. 17 Arkansas last season
  • Balance Beam: 49.550, scored at no. 17 Arkansas last season after earlier setting a new record of 49.525 at no. 23 Illinois
  • Uneven Bars: 49.450, scored at (surprise) no. 17 Arkansas last season
  • Vault: 49.500, set at NCAA LA Regional Second Round, tying March 2022 record
  • Floor Exercise: 49.650, set in 2022; season-best in 2023 was 49.600

Matchups to Keep an Eye on

While there aren’t individual head-to-head matchups, I thought this was an interesting way to share the no. 1 vs the no. 1, no. 2 vs no. 2, etc. And a wild card, as only 5 scores count. Alabama is listed first, as they’re the home team. Scores in parentheses are the highest of the season.

Bars: Luisa Blanco (9.95) vs. Hollyn Patrick (9.875) | Cameron Machado (9.925) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.85) | Chloe LaCoursiere (9.90) vs. Mara Titarsolej (9.825) | Makarri Doggette (9.875) vs. Amaya Marshall (9.825) | Shania Adams (9.875) vs. Kyra Burns (9.80) | Wild Card: Natalia Pawlak (9.775) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.75) OR Hannah Horton (9.75)

Analysis:

Alabama is a fantastic bars team that relies heavily on veteran experience. They’re led by grad students Luisa Blanco (9.975 last season) and Makarri Doggette (10 last season) and seniors Cameron Machado (9.95 last season) and Shania Adams, who has already tied last year’s season high. Natalia Pawlak, a sophomore Pitt transfer, scored a 9.95 last season, and Chloe LaCoursiere is a freshman, one of two who competed in the first meet of the season.

I should say, if the Tigers have a weaker apparatus, it is this one, but that’s due to lack of talent. Helen Hu, with her beautiful lines may be gone, but she’s replaced bythe beautiful lines of LIU grad transfer Mara Titarsolej, who scored a 9.825 in her first meet as a Tiger, but had five routines scoring 9.95+ a year ago (and a 10 in 2022). The surprise for me of the first meet was Hollyn Patrick, who took the event with her best score since 2022.

Vault: Luisa Blanco (9.90) vs. Amari Celestine (9.875) | Karis German (9.90) vs. Hannah Horton (9.875) | Lilly Hudson (9.85) vs. Grace Anne Davis (9.825) | Jamison Sears (9.85) vs. Rayna Light (9.825) | Gabby Gladieux (9.775) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.800) | Wild Card: Chloe LaCoursiere (9.775) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.775) OR JJ Jachna (9.775)

Analysis

Alabama’s vault squad is a mix of young and old(er), led by the grad student Blanco (9.95 high last year) and junior Lilly Hudson (9.95). Gabby Gladieux is only a sophomore, but earned a 9.95 last season, as is Karis German, who tied her season best from a year ago last week. The true wild cards here are the freshmen, Sears and LaCoursiere, as we don’t know what they’re capable of. Coach Johnston mentioned Sears dealt with some injuries in the fall, and isn’t quite ready to join the rotation in a bunch of events yet.

Shannon Welker proclaimed vault to be Mizzou’s most improved rotation in the preseason, and I agree. That first meet featured so many stuck landings, and so much power. 4/6 of the rotation currently has 10.0 start values, which is HUGE, including Joci (10.0 last season), Amari (9.95 last season), freshman Hannah Horton and RS-soph JJ Jachna. JJ, in particular, is one to watch for me, as she was relegated to an exhibtion role in this first meet, and with a 10.0 SV, could really be utilized moving forward. You also have to figure in Sienna Schreiber, who had a 9.90 max last year, as she’s Mizzou’s lone All-Around competior. For now, as it’s the first SEC road meet, I give the edge to the same group we saw on Saturday.

Floor: Makarri Doggette (9.975) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.975) | Luisa Blanco (9.825) vs. Hannah Horton (9.90) | Shania Adams (9.825) vs. Amari Celestine (9.875) | Cameron Machado (9.825) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.85) | Lilly Hudson (9.80) vs. Alonna Kratzer (9.85) | Wild Card: Ella Burgess (9.80) vs. Rayna Light (9.80) OR Kennedy Griffin (9.90)

Analysis:

Doggette hit her career-best in the first meet and was rewarded with SEC Specialist of the Week honors (despite tying with Moore). Machado was just off her best of 9.825 to lead the Tide. One can expect to see better performances from Blanco and Hudson (9.975 last year) and Adams (9.925) in the future (hopefully not tonight, ha)

Floor Queens. That is what Mizzou has become. I sang their praises all last year, and you guys, they’re even better this year with even crisper choreo, courtesy of new assistant coach Jackie Terpak, and tougher passes with E-Level skills, which can get you 0.2 per skill. Mizzou has any number of people who could slide into the rotation and score an 9.85+. Hell, freshman Kennedy Griffin earned a 9.90 as an exhibition entry last weekend (which is also why I have her listed as a WC contender). Sienna was just off her 9.90 from last season, and we can expect only greater things from Amari, who last year hit a 9.95. Does Shannon put in Kennedy in on Friday? We’ll see!

Beam: Shania Adams (9.90) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.925) | Luisa Blanco (9.875) vs. Grace Anne Davis (9.90) | Gabby Gladieux (9.825) vs. Amari Celestine (9.875) | Ella Burgess (9.775) vs. Mara Titarsolej (9.825) | Lilly Hudson (9.70) vs. Sydney Shaffer (9.750) | Wild Card: Rachel Rybicki (9.225) OR Makarri Doggette (9.775) vs. Amaya Marshall (9.725)

Analysis:

Beam was the weakest rotation for Bama in their first meet, but they are capable of much, much better. Adams tied her 2023 top score, but both Blanco and junior Hudson scored 10s last season. Luisa, in particular, has one of the best bars routines I have evre seen. The rest of the rotation is also capable of scoring 9.9 or above (Burgess had a 9.95 in ‘23). Coach Johnston mentioned in the media availability they were too cautious, and should expect great landings instead of hoping for great landings.

Losing the incomparable Helen Hu (9.975 in 2023- she was robbed of a 10!) and NCAA All-American Alisa Sheremeta to retirement and graduation, respectively, is difficult, but the Tigers got off to a great start on beam in their first meet with the help of new beam coach, Lacey Rubin. Sienna was close to her high 9.95 and GAD tied her best 9.90 already. Amaya, who returns this season after an injury year, recorded a 9.875 in 2022, as did Sydney last season.


How Missouri Can Win

Floor: Keep it up! I really have no notes from the performances at the first meet; they did a terrific job. I know Amari has it in her to score a 9.90 or higher, as does Sienna and Alonna. Jocelyn was sheer perfection, and we will continue to see her absolutely crush it. The new choreo and music is INCREDIBLE. It was crisp. It was giving 10.0 (one judge agreed). The freshmen will be big factors here; how do they handle the environment?

Beam: I’d love to see no 9.7s or below in the rotation— they had two in the first meet (and an additional one in exhibition). Sienna, Grace Anne and Amari were fire on Saturday, so consistency from them going forward is key; I have no doubt they can do it. I’d love to see a 9.85 from Mara, as she’s got such Helen Hu-like elegance to her, and a 9.80 or better from Amaya, who will get back to her 2022 form the more she competes.

Bars: With Hollyn back to her original form, that bodes well for the Tigers’ bars workers, who have a number of ladies capable of 9.90+ in Sienna (9.95), Joci (9.925) and Amaya (9.90). Add in Kyra’s 9.875 and you’ve got the potential for a big, big score here. I think we see some improvement over last week.

Vault: Mizzou had a great vault rotation in its first meet, with only one athlete scoring below 9.80, and that score was dropped. With more 10.0 start values this season, it’d be awesome to see some 9.90+ scores here. The Tigers didn’t have any in the first meet, so even bringing up everyone’s scores just a bit will help. I’m counted on marked improvements from Amari, Sienna and Jocelyn here (especially Joci, who can do way better than a 9.80)!

Overall: I’m hopeful that the freshmen— Horton, Light & Griffin — will not allow the crowd noise and bright lights of T-Town impact their performances as they’ve likely never been in this type of environment. Remember, the lowest score is dropped from each apparatus, so the key is to remain consistent and stick to Mizzou Gymnastics the way they’ve trained throughout each rotation, and make it so you don’t want to drop any score.

I’m keeping an eye out for those stuck landings!! There sure were a lot of them in Saturday’s meet, and you can tell it was really a focus in the offseason. On the media call this week, Sienna Schreiber said, “That’s something we’ve definitely been working on, even through summer, just going back to smaller drills. [Focusing] less on just straight-up sticks, but more on drill sticks and getting the right position. It’s definitely a big thing that we’ve been working on, and to see it pay off, especially this early in the season was really rewarding.”

To show you’re the best you gotta hang with the best and Alabama continues to be one of the best. They too have dreams of competing in the national championships, and they too have a bit of a chip on their shoulders from the end of last season. “They’re eager to step into the hard conversations for the betterment of the team,” Coach Johnston said during media availability.

As Eli Drinkwitz said all season, Mizzou has “Something to Prove,” asking “Why not us?” WHY NOT US!? Let’s do it, Tigers! I have great confidence in Mizzou and what they are capable of.

I’m so excited. M-I-Z.

MY PLEDGE: Still working on getting that bio updated, friends.
Yours truly, Twitter.com