FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 15 Arkansas gymnastics team faces the No. 1 team in the country on Friday when Florida visits Barnhill Arena for a 7 p.m. meet.
Florida leads the SEC at 5-0 and is 11-0 overall while Arkansas is second in the SEC at 4-1 and is 4-3 overall.
The Razorbacks had a four-meet winning streak snapped last week with a home loss to No. 28 Brigham Young, 195.10-195.025.
"We were disappointed with the result," co-head coach René Cook says. "We put our own obstacles in our way and weren’t able to overcome them. Overall, we weren’t as sharp and aggressive as we would like to be and we lacked a little enthusiasm."
Arkansas enters Friday’s meet with an average score of 195.179 for the season while Florida’s average is 197.078.
In the individual events, Arkansas is No. 15 in the nation on vault, No. 18 on bars, No. 14 on beam and tied for No. 8 on floor.
Florida is No. 1 overall and in all four events.
"Florida is fantastic," Cook says. "We have to be competitive and at the same time we have a job to do. If we do our job, we will be competitive. We have five competitions left to move up in the rankings and get ready for an NCAA Regional."
The Razorbacks are 1-9 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams. The one win came in 2009, the last time Florida competed in Barnhill Arena. In that meet, No. 8 Arkansas upset the top-ranked Gators 196.375-195.425.
"We’ve met with individuals, with groups and with our team," Cook says. "We’ve challenged the team and put it on them. They have to be more passionate and driven. We’ve made the upperclassmen coaches this week. They’ve made the assignments for practice."
Arkansas is led by junior All-American Jaime Pisani, freshman Katherine Grable, junior Genny Salvatore, sophomore Jordan Salsberg and junior Mariah Howdeshell. Those four have combined for 21 individual event titles.
Pisani won the all-around for the fifth time last week. She also won vault and floor. She leads the team with 14 wins this season and 45 for her career. Grable has four wins, including on beam last week, and Salvatore, Salsberg and Howdeshell one each.
"We had some great individual performances last week," Cooks says. "Jaime and Katherine were outstanding, and Genny was great on bars."
Salvatore missed her first two seasons after undergoing two surgeries on each knee. She has competed for the first time in her career in the last two meets, finishing second on bars in the win at No. 19 LSU and winning bars last week against BYU.
"The coaches have given us the opportunity to come up with the workouts for the week and to make the lineup for our intrasquad," Salvatore says. "Monday was a hard workout, but I think everyone responded. We’re focusing on the mental aspect of training and that could really benefit us."
Arkansas’ lineup last week included sophomore Amanda Siebert, Salsberg, freshman Scarlett Williams, Pisani, Grable and senior All-American Michelle Stout on vault. On bars, Salsberg was followed by Grable, Salvatore, Pisani, freshman Shelby Salmon and Howdeshell. Williams led off on beam and was followed by Pisani, Salsberg, Salmon, Grable and senior Stacy Bartlett. On floor, sophomore Amy Borsellino was followed by Bartlett, freshman Bailee Zumwalde, sophomore Kelci Lewis, Grable and Pisani.
"One person on every event might change," Cook says of the lineup. "It depends on our health and performances. We’ve gone back to an intrasquad this week to give everyone the chance to prove they are capable of handling the pressure."
The Florida meet is being covered by Comcast Sports Southeast. CSS is not available in Northwest Arkansas, but it is available to subscribers in Central Arkansas on Channel 23. The tape-delay broadcast airs on March 1.
Following Friday’s meet, Arkansas is at No. 45 Illinois-Chicago for a 1 p.m. meet on Sunday. The final home meet of the season is March 4 at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena against West Virginia.