Clemson dominates in Amy Smith's return to Chapel Hill

Posted by Ryan Davis on

Hallie Thompson nails another beam routine to add to her impressive career. However, her team fell to Clemson in another home meet for the Tar Heels in ACC play. This is the first season for the ACC in gymnastics since 1984, and the first season ever for the gymnastics program at Clemson. The meet ended with Clemson scoring a season high 196.550 which earns them a #20 ranking along the road to nationals, while UNC woes continued as they only managed a 194.250, just below their season average and dropping them in the rankings to 48th. The top 36 teams in the country will make the NCAA tournament, so the Tigers are in good shape for now and the Tar Heels have some work to do after week four.
UNC was without star Lali Dekanoidze after a lower leg injury was sustained on her bar dismount last week vs. NC State. Aside from that, the team never seemed click in full gear on the night. A formality error caused freshman Elly King to go twice on her vault debut which yielded a neutral deduction. Otherwise, what would have been a positive score, only earned a 9.25 which was dropped. 
Bars didn't turn out any better, and without Dekanoidze in the lineup, the team needed to step up if they were going to compete with the Tigers. Unfortunately, the team had to count two falls on the event. Another fall on beam (wasn't counted towards the team score) really put the pressure on the floor team. The Tar Heels answered that call with a nice event, scoring 49.150 led by Julia Knower's 9.90 and Gwen Fink's 9.875.
The star of the meet for the Tar Heels was Isabelle Schaefer, who matched her career high on her event, the uneven bars, with a 9.9250. Another bright spot was the return of senior Cory Shinohara to the vault lineup after a season-ending injury in 2023.
For the Clemson Tigers, not only are they trying to make a statement as to their place in this newly assembled conference, but in college gymnastics overall. This meet possibly had a little more at stake as Clemson Head Coach, Amy Smith was a former assistant at North Carolina and eventually Associate Head Coach under famed and long-time coach Derek Galvin. But before Coach Amy (in Chapel Hill Coach Smith is reserved for only one coach, The Coach, Dean Smith) could assume the reigns, she took a head coaching position at Utah State, a program that thrived under her leadership, before coming back east to start the Clemson program and bringing 6 transfers with her. Also with Clemson is former Tar Heel gymnast Maddy Hargrave who joined Smith's staff and is an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. The two are off to a bang in their inaugural season, and have a sweet and convincing triumph in their old stomping grounds in Chapel Hill. A big part of their success is Red-shirt sophomore Brie Clark, a native of Mobile, Alabama and transfer from Utah State who is just dazzling in her events on Vault, Beam, & Floor.
In this meet, Clark scored a 9.90 on this beam routine and topped that by scoring a 9.925 on her floor routine. 
Fortunately, for both programs, Clemson is off to the start that they needed and UNC has plenty of time left to figure things out and put up the scores they need to make a third straight postseason run. 

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