With a busy first month of the season behind it, which included a matchup with reigning NCAA co-champion Oklahoma, the third-ranked LSU gymnastics team gets into the meat of its schedule starting Friday night.
Less than a week after coming up just short against Oklahoma in the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, LSU will begin a four-meet stretch that will include competitions against longtime Southeastern Conference powers Georgia, Alabama and Florida as well as Auburn.
First up for LSU (6-1, 3-0 SEC) is ninth-ranked Georgia (2-3, 2-1) at 6:45 p.m. Friday. Doors to the PMAC open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are available at www.LSUtix.net and at the LSU athletic ticket office.
The Tigers have produced back-to-back season-high scores, easily topping Missouri before downing Arkansas and Iowa State in the same meet in which they pushed Oklahoma to the limit. But now, they get into the portion of the schedule that will get them ready for a couple of nonconference meets in March before the SEC championships on March 21.
After the Georgia meet, which will be televised live by the SEC Network, LSU will sandwich road trips to No. 11 Auburn and sixth-ranked Alabama around a home competition with No. 2 Florida. The Gators shared the national title with Oklahoma last spring.
“It’s going to be a test of the character of this team to be able to handle the pressure,” LSU All-American Rheagan Courville said of the team’s upcoming schedule. “You can either be the steamroller or pavement, as (associate head coach) Jay (Clark) likes to say. You have to see if you can respond to it.”
LSU ranks No. 2 nationally on bars, No. 3 on beam, No. 4 on floor and No. 6 on vault.
LSU will try to retain the momentum is has gained in scoring at least a 197 in three of four competitions this season and has scored at least 197 in 11 home meets in a row, a streak that began two years ago — ironically against Georgia.
The Tigers scored a 197.350 against Missouri two weeks ago, then put up a 197.425 last Saturday night at the Metroplex Challenge.
Courville, who ranks sixth in the nation in the all-around and second on uneven bars, and her teammates know it’s going to get a lot more interesting.
“This feels like the real part of the season,” she said. “We’ve done the work and tested ourselves in the gym. But we’re getting to the important part of the season; it’s going to be a lot of competition.
“I think we’ve done a lot of things well; it’s not like we made any huge mistakes to this point. We just have some little details we have to refine, and execute and take it to a new level.”
LSU has been doing that on a consistent basis for a couple of years now. Last week against top-ranked Oklahoma, Courville and Jessie Jordan, who ranks fourth in the nation in the all-around, finished 1-2 in the four-event standings.
“That says a lot about the consistency and the focus and the maturity of our team,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “What cost us the meet were just little things we gave away. It was the tiny steps and little lunges that hurt (in the final standings).”
She knows they’ll have to eliminate those in order to beat Georgia.
“We walked away from that meet last week saying, ‘Wow, we’re as good as Oklahoma,’ ” Breaux said. “I want them to be fearless for this meet.
“It’s going to be a huge meet for us; it’s an SEC meet and it’s going to be on TV and the crowd is going to be buzzing. We have to go out and compete with reckless abandon and we want to have fun.”