Jan. 29, 2009


Courtesy of Georgia Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. -- After a one of the toughest week-long stretches in the program’s history, the No. 1-ranked Georgia gymnastics team will travel to Raleigh, N.C., to face North Carolina State on Friday.

The meet will begin at 7 p.m. and will take place at State’s Reynolds Coliseum.

Georgia improved to 4-0, including a 2-0 mark in the SEC, with wins over LSU on Jan. 16, Utah on Jan. 19 and Alabama on Jan. 23. In the latest poll, those teams are Nos. 10, 2 and 9, respectively. Not only did the Gym Dogs survive but they prospered, winning all three meets and improving their team score in each outing.

Friday’s opponent, North Carolina State, is 1-4 on the year, so on paper the Gym Dogs are not only a heavy favorite but would figure to be able to take a breather in this meet. Not so, they say.

“Maintaining focus will be key for this meet,” junior vaulter Lauren Sessler said. “We did a really good job of that with our tough schedule last week, and it’s important to keep the momentum going. No matter what team it is, keeping the intensity up helps prepare us for tough competition.”

“Every time we compete, it’s against not only the other team in the gym but also against the whole country because of the rankings (which are based on the season averages of teams’ scores),” Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said. “We have done a lot of work on maintaining focus. When it’s time to compete, we have to be intensely focused. No matter who the opponent is, what’s required as an athlete is still the same. You have to maintain focus and do what you need to do to be successful. I don’t think champions let down.”

Georgia is 31-0 all-time in its series with North Carolina State.


GXtra, the official premium online service of the Georgia Bulldogs, will stream live audio of Friday’s meet, with commentary provided by former Gym Dogs Katie Heenan Dodson and Emily Bridgers. Live scoring will also be provided on georgiadogs.com.

Georgia’s meet with Alabama will be televised by ESPN2 on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 4 p.m.


Here is Georgia’s lineup for Friday’s meet against North Carolina State. As always, the lineup is subject to change.

Vault: Paige Burns, Lauren Sessler, Gina Nuccio, Cassidy McComb, Marcia Newby and Courtney Kupets.

Bars: Kat Ding, Cassidy McComb, Gina Nuccio, Abby Stack, Grace Taylor and Courtney Kupets.

Beam: Paige Burns, Hilary Mauro, Gina Nuccio, Cassidy McComb, Grace Taylor and Courtney Kupets.

Floor: Marcia Newby, Hilary Mauro, Grace Taylor, Abby Stack, Cassidy McComb and Courtney Kupets.

If this lineup holds, Burns will be performing on vault for the first time this season, Nuccio will be debuting on vault and beam, and McComb will be competing on bars for the first time. Tiffany Tolnay, the nation’s fourth-rated all-arounder who is nursing a nagging foot injury, is not expected to compete this weekend against North Carolina State.

North Carolina State is off to a 1-4 start and is ranked No. 41. The Wolfpack has a scoring average of 191.967 and a high score of 192.675, which came in the season-opening win against Illinois-Chicago. Last week, North Carolina State finished third in a tri-meet with Denver and Maryland.  Junior Taylor Seaman leads the Wolfpack with five first-place finishes on the season.

The North Carolina State family continues to mourn the passing of longtime women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, who died last Saturday after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. She was 66.

Yow’s funeral will be on Friday at 3 p.m., four hours before the gymnastics meet, and the burial will take place Saturday in her hometown of Gibsonville, N.C.

“Kay Yow was a great coach and an even greater person,” Georgia gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan said. “Her strength and  perseverance and unwavering resolve in the face of adversity was inspirational. She lived every day to the fullest, and that’s the way we all should live. Coach Yow won a lot of games at North Carolina State, but her true legacy is in how she loved her student-athletes and the way she showed us all how to fight in a dignified and courageous way.”

After former Georgia gymnast Talya Vexler was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, the Gym Dogs provided their support for Athens Regional Medical Center’s Breast Health Center.  Yoculan spearheaded the drive that raised $100,000 for the center, which was dedicated in 2005. The last several years, Georgia has had a Pink-Out meet to continue to support ARMC financially. This year, in addition to the Pink-Out meet, the Gym Dogs participated in the In Their Shoes 5K and the inaugural Stiletto Race Against Breast Cancer.

“There’s other things more important in life than sports, and athletes need to know that and so do fans,” Yoculan said. “This is our way of getting that message across.”