AUBURN —The stars were back out in force for No. 7 Auburn in the final SEC home meet of the season. The Tigers raised their NQS with a 197.550 on Friday, taking down No. 14 Georgia who finished with a 196.075.

“This year’s team has a lot of scoring potential, as much as we did last year,” said Auburn head coach Jeff Graba. “It’s just a matter of settling down and believing in ourselves and getting to the point where we expect it to happen a certain way.”

Auburn’s star power was on display early with the Tigers starting things off right on vault. Sophia Groth scored a 9.825 in the lead-off position, which was followed by Sara Hubbard’s best score of the season, a 9.9. Olivia Hollingsworth kicked her night off with a 9.825 in the event, but her score would be dropped as Auburn’s final three surpassed it. Suni Lee stuck a 9.950, matching a career-high, and Cassie Stevens’ Yurchnenko 1.5 earned. a 9.875. Derrian Gobourne anchored the rotation with a big 9.9, giving Auburn its second-highest score in the event this season. 

“Our whole week we’ve been focusing on starting strong. It meant a lot to us to achieve that goal,” said junior gymnast Olivia Hollingsworth. “Another thing we wanted to focus on was being together. We really wanted to be together, surround each other, create a bubble and have a really good atmosphere within the team.”

With a 49.450-49.025 lead, Auburn headed to the bars looking to build off of the momentum from vault. Despite a solid Bulldogs’ score on vault, bolstered by a 9.9 from Haley De Jonge and a 9.925 from Naya Howard, the Tigers extended their lead in this rivalry matchup. 

Adeline Sabados kicked things off, sticking a 9.725, and Groth scored her second 9.825 of the night. Then, all eyes turned to Aria Brusch, as the senior gymnast made her debut in the event, following shoulder surgery during the offseason. The experienced Brusch did not disappoint, nailing a 9.9. Cassie Stevens followed that with a 9.775, and the combo of Lee and Gobourne anchored the event with a pair of 9.95s.

On pace to surpass the 197.175 that was scored against NC State earlier this year, Auburn stumbled on beam as balance issues plagued a few gymnasts. The event started well with Hollingsworth scoring a 9.875 and Brusch adding a 9.850. The slip-up came with Stevens scoring a 9.7 and Groth landing a 9.775. Gabby McLaughlin helped the team bounce back with a 9.9, Auburn’s best score during the rotation. Suni Lee had a balance adjustment during her routine, dropping what is usually a higher score to a 9.85, giving Auburn a final score of 49.250 in the event, second lowest for the team on beam this season. 

“In order to hit beam, you have to attack beam,” Graba said. “But you have to attack beam with a patient mentality.”

Georgia faltered on floor and trailed 148.1-147.35, but two falls on beam spelled disaster for the Gymdogs, ultimately putting the meet out of reach.

Auburn on the other hand put on another masterclass on floor, scoring another big score in the event, despite a stumble from Suni Lee. The event was kicked off by a 9.85 from Brusch and then back-to-back 9.9s from Groth and Hollingsworth. Cassie Stevens bounced back from her difficult beam routine with a 9.85 on floor, and then all eyes turned to Sunisa Lee. 

Earlier in the week, Graba revealed that Lee would be debuting a new look at her first pass, with a move meant to be softer on her ankles. Lee put the move on display and came up short, catching herself with her hands on the mat before finishing the routine. The sophomore gymnast still scored a 9.725 and won the all-around title once again. Derrian Gobourne put on another show, scoring a 9.95 and sending the Auburn fans home happy. 

“That feels amazing even though we know we have more in the tank,” said fifth-year gymnast Derrian Gobourne, who scored two 9.95s and a 9.9. “I’m so proud of this team and I’m so grateful, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when we put it all together.”

Gobourn and her team will have that chance when they travel to Lexington next week. The Tigers will look to take down another pivotal SEC opponent in No 11 Kentucky. That bout of Friday night heights is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CST and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.

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