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No. 10 hosts No. 9 in home opener

BY ANDRES FOCIL
No. 10 hosts No. 9 in home opener

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ gymnastics team opens its home schedule this week with a top 10 matchup as the No. 10 Razorbacks begin Southeastern Conference competition against No. 9 Alabama.

The meet is Friday at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.

Arkansas was ranked No. 11 in the preseason but scored 195.075 points at No. 4 Oklahoma last week to move up to No. 10. Alabama scored 195.35 points in its opener.

In the individual events, Arkansas is No. 13 on vault, No. 21 on bars, No. 11 on beam and No. 9 on floor.

"I think it will be a very close meet," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "Alabama reloads every year and I think we proved last week that we’ve reloaded as well."

The Razorbacks are led by a pair of All-Americans – junior Jaime Pisani and senior Michelle Stout.

Stout, an All-American in 2008 and 2009, missed the 2010 season with an injury, but made her return last week in the lineup for vault and bars. Pisani has earned All-America honors each of her first two seasons. She won the floor title at OU with a 9.875 and finished second in the all-around. For her career, Pisani has 32 individual event titles while Stout has 23.

Other highlights from last week include freshman Katherine Grable, the Junior Olympic all-around national champion last year, winning the all-around with a 39.225. She led the team with a 9.80 on beam, and was second on vault (9.825), bars (9.775) and floor (9.825).

"The girls were definitely nervous," Cook says. "No matter how many intrasquad meets you have, you’re usually a little tight. We started on bars, and Jaime and (freshman) Shelby (Salmon) had some nice routines. We moved to vault and settled down a lot more. We did very well on floor and on beam we didn’t count a fall or a major mistake. It was a good experience and they fought through it."

Arkansas’ lineup last week on vault included Springdale sophomore Amanda Siebert, sophomore Jordan Salsberg, Grable, Pisani, freshman Scarlett Williams and Stout. On bars, Salsberg led off, followed by sophomore Natalie Bohonsky, Grable, Pisani, Salmon and Stout. Pisani was first on beam, followed by senior Stacy Bartlett, Williams, Salsberg, Grable and junior Mariah Howdeshell. Siebert went first on floor, followed by freshman Bailee Zumwalde, Salsberg, sophomore Kelci Lewis, Grable and Pisani.

"We’re going to put our best team on the floor," Cook says. "We have more depth than in the past. We just have to find the right chemistry. There might be a few changes in the order of competition. That usually changes in the first couple of meets, too."

In the individual national rankings, Grable is No. 8 in the all-around and Pisani is 12th. Pisani is also 10th on floor and 13th on vault. In the South Central Regional rankings, Grable is No. 1 in the all-around, Pisani No. 2 and Salsberg No. 12.

"Katherine won the meet at Oklahoma," Cook says. "She’s the real deal. She’s very poised and loves to compete. We expect her and Jaime to battle it out all year."

Alabama finished third in the nation in 2010, and recorded wins over Arkansas during the regular season in Tuscaloosa, in the SEC Championship and in the NCAA Championship Session II semifinal. The list time the Crimson Tide visited Barnhill, where Arkansas ranked No. 11 in the country in attendance average last year, the Razorbacks posted a 196.625-196.525 victory during the 2009 season.



Sports Category : Gymnastics (W)