Alabama's mission on their conference season-ending trip to Baton Rouge was simple. All the No. 3 Crimson Tide had to do was beat the No. 13 LSU Tigers to finish the regular season with a perfect conference record for the first time in over 20 years. Well, While the task seemed simple, the execution of that task was anything but. After the Tide's Diandra Milliner fell on the balance beam for the first time in her career to start the final event, Alabama knew they would have to finish nearly perfect to pull off the victory. The Tide ladies did just that by hitting on all 5 of their remaining routines, and Alabama walked out of Baton Rouge with a 197.025-196.575 victory, claiming their first perfect conference season since 1991.
Led by senior Ashley Priess' meet-high 9.925 on the sixth and final beam routine of the night, Alabama earned their highest road score of the season in front of an excited crowd of 4,000 LSU fans who sensed a possible upset for their Tigers. Coach Sara Patterson was very pleased with her team afterwards and how they responded to the adversity they faced.
"More than anything else, we kept our mental focus tonight, we didn't drift, and we did what we had to do to win the meet," Patterson said. "I thought our team energy and cohesiveness were outstanding tonight. Our ladies stayed in the `A' zone all the way through the meet. There is a difference between competing in front of 15,000 fans as we did last weekend and 4,000 fans and I thought the ladies did a good job of adjusting. A 197 on the road is awesome. I thought we earned every tenth of a point and LSU did a great job, producing one of their best scores of the season. I think that's just how great the SEC is."
Patterson was quick to point out that the Tide's mid-week practices are what truly helped them prepare for this event. In fact, the Tide's intra-squad meet during the week had an eerie similarity to Friday night's meet.
"I thought we had a very consistent performance on all four events," Patterson said. "We had one mistake on the last event, the first routine up, but it's exactly what happened in our intrasquad this week. Our ladies were focused, they were prepared, they stepped up and they had Diandra (Milliner)'s back with a great beam performance. I think that's what teamwork is all about. We've won a national championship after our first beam competitor, one of our most consistent gymnasts, fell. It's having faith in the others. Not only did we do a great job in picking Diandra up tonight, I thought each of the ladies on the beam, those five routines were among the best they've done this year."
Alabama goes on the road again next week to Norman, Ok for a Friday, March 2 meet against the Oklahoma Sooners. The meet is scheduled to start at 7 pm.