What was already going to be a difficult meet became even stranger as severe weather forced what would have been another top-15 Friday night heights matchup for the Auburn Tigers to be postponed to Saturday at 11 a.m. CT. Auburn head coach Jeff Graba had already planned on resting Sunisa Lee on some floor, but with the added delay, senior day coming up and the postseason right around the corner, Graba decided to rest Lee for the entire meet.
"Due to the schedule changes this weekend and training plan, we've decided it's best to rest Suni today. She's excited to compete against Penn State on Friday in her final meet at Neville Arena," Graba announced in a post to the team's Twitter account.
Without Lee, the Tigers kicked off the meet on bars, scoring 49.2. Auburn was led by a 9.9. from Derrian Gobourne in the anchor spot, as well as a career-high 9.875 from Gabby McLaughlin and a 9.85 from Cassie Stevens.
That was a strong start for Stevens, who would go on to win the all-around, scoring a 39.5 through the four events.
“I think it shows what a quality athlete she is and the depth of our team,” Graba said. “If we get everybody on the same page like where Cassie is right now, we’re in really good shape.”
Stevens and the Tigers continued their strong start in the next rotation, totaling a 49.375 on vault. Gobourne and junior Olivia Hollingsworth scored a pair of 9.875s, but Cassie Stevens was the highlight. The senior nailed a 9.975, earning a 10 from one judge and setting a career-high in the event.
“It was great to see Cassie start to vault like that again,” Graba said. “It’s nice to see her start to hit that vault like she’s capable.”
Auburn headed to floor, but it would be a step down for the Tigers, notching a 49.25 in the event. Hollingsworth and McLaughlin both got career-bests in the event, with a 9.9 and 9.85, respectively, but Gobourne's traditionally high-scoring routine earned just a 9.8 in Lexington. Sophia Groth added a 9.875, and Stevens scored a 9.825.
On beam, Stevens wrapped up her night with a 9.85, leading the team. Hollingsworth led off with a 9.825, and freshman Hannah Hagle competed in her first event for the Tigers, scoring a 9.8, a score matched by Aria Brusch. Falls from McLaughlin and Groth meant one of them had to count, resulting in a team beam score of 48.575.
Auburn's final score of 196.45 fell short of Kentcuky's 197.675, and the Tigers will now have to regroup before their final dual meet of the season.
“Maybe it will leave a bad taste in our mouth, but we’ve got a week to work on it and get ready to go for senior night,” Graba said.
Auburn will be back home for senior day on Friday, March 10, with a meet against Penn State scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT.
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