The Crimson Tide, winners of national titles in 2011 and 2012, scored its highest opening night score in program history with a 197.15 to 193.425 victory over Missouri in front of 12,971 at Coleman Coliseum.
“I think we’ve been to the point where we needed to compete for a while,” Tide coach Sarah Patterson said. “We really weren’t going to get any better in practice -- we just needed to get out there in front of the crowd and in front of some judges and under some pressure. I think they really did a great job tonight.”
The Tide’s performance came without junior Kayla Williams, who went down in warmups with what Patterson is calling an Achilles injury. The Tide used three freshmen on six routines to help fill the void.
“This freshman class reminds me of our freshman class,” senior Sarah DeMeo said. “Just the way they’re stepping up off the bat, the first meet. They’re just going to continue to get stronger and more competitive. We’re really proud of them.”
It’s early, but Alabama’s weakest event from a season ago became a strength Friday. On uneven bars, Alabama posted a 49.475 which is higher than any score the Tide posted on the bars last season. Senior Kim Jacob led the way with a career-high 9.925, which freshman Amanda Jetter matched.
Jacob won the all-around by tying her career-high of 39.525. Freshman Katie Bailey was second in the all-around with a 39.325 while DeMeo, in her first all-around appearance since midway through her freshman year, took third with a 39.100.
The Tide scored a 49.300 on the vault, led by senior Diandra Milliner’s 9.925.
On the balance beam, Alabama scored a 49.075 led by Jacob’s 9.875. Freshman Aja Sims, who joined the Tide on Dec. 26 after graduating early from high school, posted a 9.825 on the beam as did Clark.
The Tide closed strong on the floor exercise where Milliner posted a 9.95 and Jacob went 9.925, to pace the Tide to a 49.300 team score.
“I thought this was an amazing start,” Jacob said. “I’m so proud of everyone for stepping up when Kayla went down. We were all upset, we don’t want any of our teammates to get hurt, but I think we used that and we competed for Kayla tonight and I think it was an amazing start for us.”
Alabama will travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to face Kentucky and Nebraska on Jan. 18.