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Another Top-5 matchup looms for Mizzou Gymnastics as they head to Lexington to take on a surging ‘Cats squad.

It’s a battle of big cats and top-10 teams. Who will prevail?

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

TONIGHT’S THEME: ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK.

It’s Friday Night Heights time, Gym Friends! After another win on the road, the Tigers are back at it, this time in Big Blue Nation facing off against the ‘Cats, who are roaring quite loudly these days. Time to kill another giant, ladies.

Let’s get to it.


Meet Info

When: Friday, February 9

Where: Rupp Arena | Lexington, KY

Time: 6:00pm CST

TV: SEC Network+

Live Stats: https://www.statbroadcast.com/events/statmonitr.php?gid=kty

History: In the all-time series against UK, Missouri trails 11-2. Just a bit over a year ago (exactly 53 weeks ago), the Tigers & Cats faced of with UK prevailing, 197.250 to 196.600 despite the fact that each team won two events. (source: MUTigers.com)

Fun Facts:

  • UK head coach Tim Garrison is in his 13th season at the helm of the Cats (not the GymCats, as they don’t want to be called that). Per UKAthletics, before he got there, the program’s highest single-meet score was 196.375. For an ENTIRE DECADE. Since then, they’ve met or surpassed that score 52 times.
  • If you use the best possible scores of the season thus far monitor from Road to Nationals (a great website), Kentucky’s highest score is a 198.4500, while Mizzou’s is a 198.225. This never actually works out this way, but it’s kinda a fun stat to look at regardless.
  • Since 2015, the Wildcats have been a mainstay in the national top 25 rankings, finishing in the 20s (22 & 24) in 2015 & 2016, and the top 15s in 2017 (14), 2018 (12), 2020 (13), and 2021 (11). Finally, they’ve found themselves in the top 10 3 times, including last season (6), 2022 (10), and 2019 (9).
  • In 2023, Kentucky set a new overall meet record at 197.875, and became one of three teams in all of D-1 that season to score 49.00+ on every apparatus and not count a single fall. The Wildcats placed fourth at the SEC Championships last year, and a sixth place finish at the NCAA Championships. Coach Garrison was awarded SEC Coach of the Year for his efforts, six Cats were named National Championship All-Americans, and three were awarded All-American regular season honors.
  • The Cats have 4 North Carolinians & Texans on their roster, and 2 each from Virginia and Florida. Weirdly enough, they have no Kentuckians on this roster. In case you’re wondering about MU’s roster makeup, it features 3 Missourians and Kansas natives, and two each from Colorado, Georgia and Illinois.
  • Kentucky utilizes a very veteran-laden rotation, it appears, with a large group of seniors (Worley, Magnelli, Patterson, Davis, Bunn) making most of their appearances.
  • Here are some team stats from their meets thus far. Thank you, UK Media Guide.
courtesy of UKAthletics.com
  • Fun Fact: Mizzou and Kentucky remain two of the very few teams (and 2 of 5 SEC schools) without “misses” this season (no counting scores 9.5 or under):

Last Time On The Mats

When we — well, those of us who shelled out money for the PPV (#worthit) — last saw the Tigers, they visited the Great Mediocre State of Texas to face off against Texas Woman’s University. This is not an indictment of the team, mind you. The state. I digress. I wrote a recap, complete with lots of videos, which you can check out here.

Let’s recap quickly.

First rotation (MIZ bars, TWU vault): There were some changes to the bars rotation, as Jocelyn Moore got a rest for a nasty blister injury on her palm (she was bars’ing too hard, apparently), and Alonna Kratzer, normally of the FX, took her place, and notched a 9.725. Kyra tied her season-high with a 9.825, and Mara had her second highest score of the season in the anchor role, earning a 9.925. The Tigers dropped a pretty scary face-planting fall from Maya — she’s okay, and restarted the routine — but the Tigers’ 49.10 was their second-lowest score of the season.

As for the Pioneers’ side, they started on vault and earned three scores in the 9.70-range, led by Holland’s 9.775, to go with a 9.60 and a 9.55 (which was dropped).

After One: Mizzou is up 0.55, 49.10 to 48.55

Second rotation (MIZ vault, TWU bars): Another rotation, and more changes! This time, Rayna was given the night off in favor of JJ Jachnas, whose 10.0 SV vault fans have been clamoring for (or me, anyway). Amari and H-squared led the Tigers in this one with a 9.875 each. The 49.075 rotation score was marked their lowest score of the season by almost 2/10ths. The culprit on this? The lack of sticks, for one, but as for the other deductions, I’m just not sure.

The Pioneers showed their skills on bars in the second rotation, and did manage a trio of 9.80+ scores, which is phenomenal for them.

After two rotations, Mizzou extends its lead to 0.950, 98.175 to 97.225

Third rotation (MIZ floor, TWU beam): The Fab Floor was back with the same rotation as LSU, and they had another incredible performance, resulting in a 49.50 score (their second-highest of the season). Sienna got things started with an unbelievable career-high 9.925, and Rayna followed with a 9.80. H-squared worked yet another 9.90, which she has scored in the last 2⁄3 of meets. After Hannah’s 9.90, Amari followed with an uncharacteristically low 9.775 — she was a little short on her last pass but I thought played it off well — before Kennedy killed it with yet another 9.9+, her third consecutive one, with her 9.925.

As for the Pioneers, they achieved their season high on the beam with a 48.875, led by a 9.825 with her stuck landing, and two strong 9.775 scores.

After three rotations, Mizzou extends its lead to 1.575, 147.675 to 146.10.

Final rotation (MIZ beam, TWU floor): The Tigers came out fighting with a new lineup, led by Amari in the leadoff role, earning a great 9.825. Mara, making her return to beam after two weeks off with a foot bruise, and Rayna both earned a 9.775 before Sydney had an awesome 9.85. Then came the jaw-droppers, GAD, earning a career-best 9.925, and Sienna, once again tying her career-best with a 9.975. What a difference a week makes. All this added up to a 49.35 rotation score, which is their second-highest of the season.

As for the Pioneers, they saved their best score for last, earning a program high-tying with their 49.325. TWU was led by Daisy Woodring, who tied with Joci with her 9.95, Horn with her 9.90, and a trio of 9.825 scores.

After four rotations, Mizzou takes the W by 1.55, 197.075 to 195.475.

UK, on the other hand, is coming off a masterful victory and a 197.600 score vs. no. 7 Alabama for the first time in history last weekend. Raena Worley earned her second consecutive 10.0 FX. Their lowest score was in the first rotation, but still managed a 49.225 on bars. The country’s no. 1 vault team earned a 49.425 rotation score, which tied their 7th best in program history. The vault team was led by Makenzie Wilson, who earned her 5th 9.95. On floor, the Cats recorded a 49.525, tied for their 9th best, and was anchored by that aforementioned 10.0 by Raena. To wrap up an awesome night, Kentucky tallied a 49.425 on beam, led by (surprise!) Raena again with a 9.95, with Magnelli close behind with a 9.925.


What To Expect At The Venue

It is going to be a LOUD ONE. After all, it’s Rockstar Night at Rupp. And it’s only their second home meet of the season! Rupp Arena, home of Kentucky Men’s Hoops, technically has a capacity of 20,500, but I’d guess it’s about half that for gymnastics, per this seating diagram. as it appears they don’t sell the upper levels. Per roadtonationals, that one home meet had 10,302 on hand (vs. Georgia).

From my research, it appears that most of the time, Memorial Coliseum is the home of the gymnastics team (as is Women’s Hoops and Volleyball), but this time we get storied RUPP ARENA. HOW LUCKY ARE WE?!

UKAthletics

Quick Comparisons

data per RoadtoNationals.com

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: 49.65, 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 it was interesting to share the no. 1 vs the no. 1, no. 2 vs no. 2, etc. And a wild card. Mizzou is listed first, Kentucky second. Scores in parentheses are the highest of the season. **Reminder: these lineups essentially mean nothing. OR means I don’t know who to pick so there could be a few choices.

Vault: Jocelyn Moore (9.95) vs. Makenzie Wilson (10.0) | Hannah Horton (9.95) vs. Arianna Patterson (9.925) | Amari Celestine (9.90) vs. Isabella Magnelli (9.925) | Grace Anne Davis (9.875) vs. Raena Worley (9.90) | Sienna Schreiber (9.85) vs. Cecily Rizo (9.90) | Wild Card: Rayna Light (9.85) OR JJ Jachna (9.775) vs. Delaynee Rodriguez (9.85)

Analysis: Wilson has scores of 10.0 and 9.95 on the season to lead the Cats, and was awarded SEC Specialist of the Week for her perfect score two meets ago (against UGA at home). Patterson would probably be my next most consistent of the season, as she’s got three scores in the UK Top 5, all 9.875+, which slightly puts her over Magnelli for me at least. And you can never count out Raena Worley, who I am fairly certain had a 10 or 2 last season.

Hannah & Amari ranked no. 21 nationally on vault with a 9.875 average, while both Joci, Rayna & Sienna are all averaging 9.81+. JJ debuted vault for the first time last week after exhibitioning for a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see if Shannon goes with the lower SV vault (Rayna) or the higher (JJ). Per Welker’s presser, this rotation is pretty set, as a few are pretty permanent at this point in Amari, Joci & Hannah.

“We’re really just talking about one spot on vault that we’ve been kind of rotating a little bit on there. You know, we are hoping to add a 10.0 vault and we had JJ in there last weekend. So that gave us four 10.0 vaults. We took some risks there and put them all out there,” he said.

Bars: Mara Titarsolej (9.975) vs. Raena Worley (9.975) | Amaya Marshall (9.90) vs. Jillian Procasky (9.90) | Sienna Schreiber (9.875) vs. Delaynee Rodriguez (9.90) | Jocelyn Moore (9.875) vs. Bailey Bunn (9.875) | Kyra Burns (9.875) vs. Annie Reigert (9.825) | Wild Card: Hollyn Patrick (9.875) OR Rayna Light (9.825) OR Hannah Horton (9.825) vs. Hailey Davis (9.90) OR Ashley Cowan (9.80) OR Cadence Gormley (9.775)

Analysis: So many ORs here. Raena Worley holds the top three scores for UK. (2x 9.975 and 1x 9.925). I don’t expect to see Gormley, as she’s only performed in the first three meets of the season. Most impressive to me here, outside of Worley’s 9.935 avg, of course, would be Procasky, who averages a 9.869, and Bunn’s 9.855. These ladies rarely make mistakes.

As for Mizzou, I think the lineup you see is going to depend on whether or not Joci’s injury is healed. If she’s good to go, then you see her and I’d imagine Hollyn. If she’s not, then you see Hollyn and one of the two freshmen, each of whom has done the event just once. Mara, the Bars Queen, stands out here, with her 9.89 avg, but Kyra & Sienna also have 9.82+ averages. Again, Welker said that they’re really close to finding their ideal lineup, and they’re just trying to find the best lineup for the 2-and 3-spots. “We have some very competitive kids and so we’re trying to continue to to give them opportunities in the lineup.”

Beam: Sienna Schreiber (9.975) vs. Raena Worley (9.95) | Grace Anne Davis (9.925) vs. Bailey Bunn (9.95) | Amari Celestine (9.925) vs. Isabella Magnelli (9.925) | Sydney Schaffer (9.875) vs. Delaynee Rodriguez (9.90) | Mara Titarsolej (9.825) vs. Arianna Patterson (9.875) | Wild Card: Kennedy Griffin (9.825) OR Rayna Light (9.80) OR Amaya Marshall (9.775) vs. Creslyn Brose (9.85) OR Cadence Gormley (9.80)

Analysis: Bunn has hit 9.90+ twice this season. Brose made her beam debut last week. Brose and Gormley are both freshmen, and I’d give the nod to Brose here to get the 6th position. When looking at the average scores, it looks like both Patterson and Bunn likely have falls on their resumes, as they average 9.69 and 9.886, respectively.

Four Tigers here average 9.80+ (GAD, Amari, Syd, and Sienna), and that’s with counting a fall for Sienna, so you know how consistent she’s been outside of that lone oopsie two weeks ago. Kennedy debuted on beam last week and was really good, and I might give her the nod here. As for the lineup, Amari led off last week and it went really well; she was super solid, but Welker is still looking for, like we said in bars, a solid 2-and 3-spot.

Floor: Jocelyn Moore (9.975) vs. Raena Worley (10.0) | Kennedy Griffin (9.975) vs. Creslyn Brose (9.975) | Sienna Schreiber (9.925) vs. Arianna Patterson (9.925) | Amari Celestine (9.90) vs. Hailey Davis (9.90) | Rayna Light (9.90) vs. Jillian Procasky (9.875) | Wild Card: Alonna Kratzer (9.875) OR JJ Jachna (9.85 exh) vs. Isabella Magnelli (9.85) OR Delaynee Rodriguez (9.85) OR Makenzie Wilson (9.825)

Analysis: My favorite event! Sienna has now hit three consecutive floor routines of 9.9 or better, while Joci has posted a 9.9 or higher in eight consecutive meets, marking the longest active streak in the SEC (per MUTigers). Jocelyn is currently ranked no. 8 nationally on floor with a 9.93 average, while Kennedy is no. 21 with a 9.906 average. All of the Tigers are awesome on FX, and this is where I think the Tigers have a shot to really either gain some ground or close the gap with their wildly consistent routines.

Raena has 3 of the top 5 Kentucky scores on FX, with a 10 & 2x 9.5, while the freshman Brose has three scores at/above 9.925.


How Missouri Can Win

TIME TO STAND ON BUSINESS. They are ready for this. The crowd will be loud but we know that they can block out that noise with their own excitement. Mizzou has some of the best hype women I’ve heard. They’ve GOT to stick the landings, ESPECIALLY on vault, as there were no true sticks in Denton, and they weren’t really “centered”, as Shannon called it.

Back to the ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK at the top... Mizzou has to come out attacking, and you cannot allow UK to get ahead or too far ahead that you can’t get back into it. Kentucky will be starting on Vault, where they lead the country, so a big bars rotation will be so, so important. They can do this.

To be the best you gotta beat the best, and right now, Kentucky is looking to be one of the best. I’m confident Mizzou can hang in this one.

From Shannon in Wednesday’s media meeting:

“We certainly want to get a win out of the thing. And if we perform at our best, I certainly think we put ourselves in a position to do that. We honestly try to just stay focused on what we’re doing and hope that’s good enough to outscore our opponent.”

Remember all, there’s no defense in gymnastics. It is truly you against yourselves. The Tigers can’t control what the Wildcats do any more than I can control how Mizzou Hoops plays on a given night (I wish I had those powers). They have no control over how the judges score them or the Cats. All they can do is stick — literally and figuratively —to their training and put themselves in the very best position to earn a high score.

“Obviously, we want those outcomes but you have to continue to stay focused on the process, and what are the things that we can do from a day to day standpoint that we can get better, right, because that’s what’s really going to get us the outcome that we’re looking for. So we actually had that talk yesterday before practice and just said, Hey, let’s refocus right we need to do this right.”

I’m so excited. M-I-Z.