The Gym Dogs began their journey back to the top on Monday (officially), so it is time to take a look at what they are capable as a team and the routines they are bringing in to replace those who have graduated.
McCool: UB, BB, FX
Newby: VT, UB
Taylor: UB, BB, FX
Sessler: VT (Alt)
Last year, the Gym Dog seniors were uncharacteristically inconsistent for numerous reasons. Injuries had caught up to them, but there were also chemistry issues within the program that kept everything from gelling as it should. Unfortunately, UGA lost three bar routines and two beam routines. Those are routines that are always more difficult to replace given the skill involved and the numerous deductions able to be taken per skill. Taylor and McCool bolstered a solid balance beam lineup and put up countable scores on Uneven Bars for several years. Newby was a solid contributor/leadoff/alternate on bars during her career and was capable of being a huge score on vault in the rare case that she stuck it. Otherwise, she was 9.8-9.85 territory when she took a big crooked step every single week.
Kat Ding and Shayla Worley missed Regionals due to injury last year. Their presence would've been more than enough to get the Gym Dogs to NCAAs, but the team's failure to qualify without them indicates that the team didn't have a prayer of repeating as NCAA Champions. If we are to judge them on the standard of getting back to NCAAs, we can say that they replace a solid five routines from their regionals lineup (Ding- VT, UB Worley- UB, BB, FX). If we are to judge them against their optimal lineup last year, they have yet to replace any scores as they were integral parts throughout the season. Ding is a solid 9.9-9.95 on bars and a 9.85-9.9 on vault. Worley is a 9.85 on bars who is capable of scoring higher should she ever fix her handstands. She is a 9.9 gymnast on beam and floor who is desperately needed throughout the post season. Ding has the potential to be an exciting leadoff on floor who like Worley, can get a high score due to clean form and dance coupled with less than optimal tumbling difficulty.
Gina Nuccio needs to not be a question mark every week, as she is capable of being a reliable 9.850 gymnast on three events.
Kaylan Earls is going to be a solid all-arounder for the Gym Dogs. She has to be. Kaylan performs a powerful Omeilianchik vault and is a great tumbler. Already, we should sub her into the Chelsa Byrd role of VT/FX anchor and mid lineup on bars and beam.
Cat Hires is interesting. She won bars at NCAAs, but is a bit sluggish at times and has cleaning up to do.
Lindsey Cheek- January addition. Could compete vault for the team. Messy on bars. Bad feet.
Becca Bennett- Walkon
Laura Moffatt is expected to contribute on VT and UB, but her bar routine is loaded with deductions. In an ideal world, she would be a non-competing walkon who just motivated the other girls to keep their spots in the lineup. (Harsh but true.)
A 9.8 is the average score needed to achieve a 49.0 average. If a team scores below a 49.0 on any apparatus, it is typically a giant problem and will keep them from finishing near the top at NCAAs. A 9.75 is an okay throwaway score, but when one looks at a routine and finds built in deductions (like in Moffatt's case), the routine is not going to replace any of the bar scores lost from last season and it is already widening the hole that the team finds itself in. Moffatt's giant half+shootover is enough to keep her from the 9.8 range. When adding in her sloppy giant full and body shape errors on her blind change, it makes it unlikely that she will be able to clean up enough to give the team a score that would return them to the top of the pack. The Gym Dogs are not going to be able to replace the 9.9-9.95s on beam from McCool and Taylor. This was not Jay's best class in terms of recruiting. Rhonda, Val and even Sarah Patterson out-signed him.
At this time, we need to stop comparing the Gym Dogs to a 10 time NCAA Champion team and judge them as a new program on the verge of making NCAAs. Jay is starting over at the bottom. We should not view this team as a fluid continuation of the Yoculan Gym Dogs.
At this time, McComb and Mauro are needed in the lineup as much as possible. They have considerable experience. When in shape, McComb is capable of being a solid all-arounder. She had a rough year on bars last year, but she was a solid 9.85 in 2008. Should she be able to stay on beam, she could be a steady score to build off of. The coaches know that McComb has a need to compete as many events as possible in order to stay happy, confident and motivated. Keeping McComb positive and in shape could be a key to the team's success this season.
Gina Nuccio is oft-injured throughout the season. She is needed on Vault, Bars and Floor for 9.8-9.875 scores that typically wind up counting to the team's total. Should Gina be able to remain healthy and work on improving her routines, she could finally approach her potential.
Overall, the Gym Dogs had far too many lineup changes last year and need to solidify a lineup in order to fine tune the team chemistry and rhythm.
Kat Ding- Needs to be the team star.
Christa Tanella was a big recruit but ultimately a bit of a wash last season. She was steady on beam, but could've scored much higher with a solid dismount. While she had success with a gainer full off the side of the beam, it was piked and sluggish...and a built in deduction that kept her from a true 9.9 on the apparatus. (A score expected of a heralded recruit.)
Noel Couch was a rock last season. The girl has form issues, but she delivered almost every time out. Expect to see a lot of her. She is a 9.7-9.85 scorer. Ideally, she is a leadoff girl, but she did wind up being a top scorer for the team at times. Should the team want to be a contender, Couch needs to be in the leadoff (and throwaway score) role.
Shayla Worley has had a career of injuries. The coaches want her star power, but she simply wasn't a top six vaulter on the team. If Shayla scored a 9.8 on vault, it was a generous score. Shayla is needed in the crunch, so it is important that the coaches work to keep her healthy. Unfortunately for her, that likely means curbing her AA ambitions. She is needed weekly on bars and beam and should be a regular (but rested and used for special occasions) on floor.
Kati Breazeal- It is time to stop pretending that she will contribute.
Given that it is an odd numbered year, the Gym Dogs face most of their tough competitors at home. Should they win, this will likely give way to criticism that they can only win at home and that somehow Suzanne is paying the judges to restore her good name. Utah, Alabama, Florida and Michigan will all be home meets. If the team is to be successful, they need to use their home court advantage and rally to win a few of those meets. Fans are attracted to winning teams and UGA's fan base helps them enormously with attracting recruits. If the victories cease, so may the large crowd. Vicious cycle.
UCLA, Denver, Arkansas and LSU are crucial road meets.
Nuccio (She needs to compete enough to not have random wipeouts.)
Mauro (Her vault is low, but she hits and if she does the 1.5TY, they usually reward her for it.)
McComb (She needs to be in shape and hit or else be replaced her, even by Noel Couch.)
Hires (They need her to consistently improve in the style of Kat Ding and McComb as a frosh.)
Nuccio (Typically a consistent 9.85)
Earls (Needs to deliver a 9.85)
Worley (Desperately needs to focus on handstands and pirouettes.)
Ding (Healthy, she had the cleanest bar routine in the NCAA and would've won at NCAAs)
Balance Beam- This is the team's trickiest event and potentially the biggest lost from last season. They are likely losing about .2 on this apparatus.
Mauro (They need her back where she is comfortable. She was all over the place last year.)
McComb (They desperately need her to stay on. Big question mark despite whatever Jay says.)
Earls (They need a 9.8-9.85)
Couch (Not pretty, but she stays on.)
Tanella (Pretty but the dismount is an issue. She is also a bit slow and needs more energy.)
Worley (They need her healthy and the anchor, not two ways about it. She is a 9.9)
Couch (She hits. Ideally, Ding would charm the judges with her style in this role.)
Nuccio- (She is a 9.85 if she doesn't have one of her biweekly calamities or heart surgeries.)
McComb- (They will use her, but she is inconsistent with her tumbling when not in shape.)
Mauro- (A solid 9.85-9.9.)
Worley (If she stays clean and dances her butt off, she is a 9.9)
Earls (She is the type of anchor whose powerful tumbling will erase any form errors.)
Expect the team to make it back to NCAAs and if they have a really good year, they could finish 4th, 5th or 6th. A 3rd place finish would likely be the best they could ever hope for.