TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Competing in Tuscaloosa for the first time, sophomore Sunisa Lee scored 10s on her opening and closing events to lead No. 6 Auburn to a season-high 197.7 Friday at Coleman Coliseum.
“It means a lot, especially here at Alabama,” said Lee, whose bars and beam routines each earned maximum scores from both judges. “We obviously wanted to win. It felt really good because I feel like the past few weeks I haven’t been at my best so to come out here and do two 10s is a great feeling.”
The Tigers grabbed an early lead and held on through three rotations before No. 11 Alabama closed with a whopping 49.7 on floor to total 197.850 to record a rivalry victory.
“I told the girls I’m really proud of them,” Auburn coach Jeff Graba said. “I think you’ve got to be a 198 team to win the national championship. Clean some things up and just keep going.”
Auburn (3-4, 1-2 SEC) scored 49.4 on bars on the opening rotation while Alabama earned 49.175 on vault.
Senior Cassie Stevens tallied a 9.9 while sophomore Sophia Groth and fifth year Derrian Gobourne each added 9.875s to set up Lee’s fabulous finale. Juniors Olivia Hollingsworth and Gabby McLaughlin each scored 9.75s.
Lee led the way again on vault, pacing the Tigers with a 9.9. Groth, Stevens and Gobourne each added 9.85s while Hollingsworth led off with a career-high 9.875 to help the Tigers score 49.325 in the rotation to maintain Auburn’s .225 lead.
Moving to floor for the third rotation, Lee and Gobourne led the Tigers with matching 9.925s at the bottom of the lineup. Groth followed senior Aria Brusch’s opening 9.825 with a season-high 9.9. Hollingsworth contributed a 9.85 with Stevens scoring 9.875 to give Auburn 49.475.
“We had quite a few people step up and continue to push,” Graba said.
Despite that big score, Alabama closed the gap considerably through three events by scoring 49.65 on beam, highlighted by Luisa Blanco’s 10.
Heading to the final rotation, Auburn led 148.2-148.150, only half a tenth separating the rivals in a pressure-packed last event.
After Hollingsworth led off on beam with a 9.8, Brusch equaled her season high with a 9.9 in the second spot to keep the pressure on the home team.
Stevens further turned up the heat, equaling her career high with a 9.95. Groth added a 9.85 and Lee anchored with her second beam 10 of the season to win the all-around with 39.825. That total tied her career best in the category.
“That’s definitely something to be proud of,” Stevens said of Auburn’s highest team score so far in 2023. “We wanted it, we really did. I think you could see that fight in us. We held it together, we fought, we had each other’s backs. We had a lot of good things tonight I think we can take forward with us. Still things to improve on, but overall it was a success.”
Alabama counted five floor scores of 9.9 or better to overtake the Tigers despite Auburn’s 49.5 on beam, the Tigers’ highest-scoring rotation of the meet.
Stevens tied for third in the all-around with 39.575 while Groth (39.475) and Hollingsworth (39.275) also competed in all four events for the Tigers.
Auburn returns to Neville Arena next Friday to host LSU at 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.
“We know exactly what we need to work on going to the gym,” Lee said. “Work even harder, be even better. It’s going to be a great competition.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer