No matter the sport, the Alabama versus Auburn rivalry brings another level of energy and excitement. Even with a limited crowd capacity, that energy propelled the Crimson Tide to its highest score of the season in a 196.925-195.675 victory over the Tigers Friday night in Coleman Coliseum.
"It doesn't matter if there's two people in the stands or 10,000 people," Crimson Tide coach Dana Duckworth said. "right now these women are fighting for everything and competing together, and that brings a great deal of joy."
Alabama built a lead after the first rotation, and the Tigers could never catch up.
The Crimson Tide's strongest rotation was the balance beam where it scored a 49.425, its highest score since the 2019 SEC Championships. Three gymnasts scored a 9.9 or higher including 9.9s from senior Alonza Klopfer and sophomore Makarri Doggette. Luisa Blanco led the way with a 9.925.
The senior set the standard for the rotation with her leadoff routine on the beam.
"I love being in that position it's kind of my most comfortable position," Klopfer said. "I like setting the tone for the team, and it's an honor to be in that position."
Alabama started off the night with a 49.175 on vault led by a 9.9 from senior Lexi Graber before moving over to bars where they scored a season high 49.200 on beam.
The Crimson Tide finished the night on the floor exercise, where the only Alabama native on the roster, junior Sania Mitchell had a team high 9.9. Mitchell said she could not have done it without the encouragement from her teammates after she had a rough warmup.
Competing for her hometown team is a dream come true for the Tuscaloosa native, but now she is moving toward bigger goals.
"At this point it's kind of past the dream now," Mitchell said. "You know when you achieve a goal, it's hard to get to the top but it's even harder to stay there so now, I just got to keep working."
In a way, this meet was a full circle moment for Alabama. The Crimson Tide started off the 2020 season with a loss to Auburn for just the second time in 40 years and were scheduled to meet the Tigers again last March the week sports were shut down across the country because of the pandemic.
Now in the third meet of 2021, Alabama has avenged that loss to the Tigers with a victory of more than an entire point.
Even though this is the highest score of the season so far, Mitchell said the team has still not reached its fullest potential.
"We have more people to add. We've got more depth coming. We've got lots of people working hard. We can literally only get better, like we're doing good now but we can only keep going up," Mitchell said.
Next up for Alabama, the Crimson Tide will travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on January 29.