The word for LSU in athletics against Alabama has been Frustration, with a capital “F,” during the 2017-18 school year.
Before Friday night, the Tigers and Lady Tigers were a combined 1-4-1 against the Crimson Tide in football, men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball, splitting a pair of matches in the latter.
“We want to beat them in English,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said earlier this week, throwing down a challenge before her No. 1-ranked gymnastics team.
What’s a good synonym for determination? The Tigers displayed that Friday night, overcoming a couple of wobbly performances for a 197.450-196.725 victory over No. 9 Alabama before a record crowd of 13,729 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
It was LSU’s 30th straight win at home against all opponents since losing to Alabama in 2013 and the Tigers' 26th straight score of 197 or better dating to 2014. The score was the best of LSU’s three marks this season.
The meet turned into a happening long before LSU or Alabama began their first events.
The last tickets sold before noon Friday. Among those squeezing into the PMAC were a host of men’s and women’s gymnastics alumni and Gov. John Bel Edwards, who made a pre-meet presentation to Breaux on her birthday that included a bag of chocolate chip cookies from the governor’s mansion.
“We couldn’t have a better representative (for Louisiana),” Edwards said.
A representative who felt some butterflies before the meet began.
“I thought, ‘We’ve really got to win this thing,’ ” Breaux said. “I was having some ‘Beat Bama bad’ thoughts there. I really wanted to win.
One LSU student painted a birthday greeting to Breaux on his chest; thousands of gold pompoms waved; and the PMAC rocked with emotion from beginning to end.
“The crowd was amazing,” said senior Myia Hambrick, who shared Friday’s top all-around honors with junior teammate Sarah Finnegan. “I’ve been part of some big crowds here, but every time I landed a pass on floor routine, I felt like I was in Tiger Stadium.”
LSU had to deal with a late curveball as sophomore All-American Kennedi Edney was scratched from vault and floor after hyperextending her knee in warmups. Edney still competed in the Tigers’ middle two events, scoring a 9.925 on uneven bars to tie for second in that event and a 9.875 on beam.
In Edney’s place, Breaux inserted junior Julianna Cannamela, who struggled through an injury-plagued sophomore season in 2017. She led off for LSU on vault as the rest of the lineup moved down a spot, with Lexie Priessman taking Edney’s place as the anchor. Cannamela opened with a solid 9.85, followed by Finnegan’s winning 9.90 as LSU scored a 49.150 in the event.
Cannamela closed out the night with a 9.875 on floor, locking up the win for LSU that was in doubt until the final pass as the Tigers had to erase an 8.925 from Ruby Harrold in the second spot.
“When I landed my last pass, I cried a little bit,” Cannamela said of her floor routine. “I knew I could do it because I do it in practice.”
Cannamela revealed it was her first time competing on floor since her freshman season.
“I didn’t realize that,” said Breaux, drawing a chuckle in the post-meet news conference.
Alabama matched the Tigers opening rotation score while competing on bars, but LSU created some serious separation as it moved to that apparatus.
The Tigers posted a 49.650, the second-best bars score in program history, as five LSU gymnasts notched or tied career highs. Finnegan won the event with a 9.975, meaning she got a 10 from one of the two judges scoring the event. Hambrick and Edney tied for second with 9.925s while Alabama scuffled a bit to a 49.025 on beam. Hambrick also finished first on floor with a 9.95.
Finnegan anchored LSU’s beam routine with a bit of pressure as fifth performer Reagan Campbell fell and recorded a 9.20. Finnegan had a wobble or two but stayed up for a 9.75, helping LSU post a 49.200 to match Alabama’s score on floor.
Hambrick, Edney and Christina Desiderio all posted 9.875s in the event. The only individual win for Alabama came on beam with a 9.95 from Nickie Guerrero.
LSU improved to 3-0 on the season and in the Southeastern Conference, while Alabama dropped to 1-2 and 1-1.
With victories the last two weeks over two of its closest competitors (LSU won at Florida on Jan. 12), the Tigers are on pace for a second straight regular-season conference championship — a championship Breaux pushed the SEC to create.
“The conference season never mattered before.” Breaux said. “We scored well. That’s nice. I football and basketball they don’t say, ‘We scored well.’ We had some fumbles tonight, but the next person picked up the ball and scored.”
And LSU beat Bama, a birthday present for Breaux that even topped cookies from the governor’s mansion.
1. #1 LSU 197.450 (Vault — 49.150, Bars — 49.625, Beam — 49.200, Floor — 49.475)
2. #9 Alabama 196.725 (Vault — 49.025, Bars — 49.150, Beam — 49.350, Floor — 49.200)
Individual (includes first place and all LSU competitors)
All-Around — T1. Sarah Finnegan, Myia Hambrick, LSU, 39.550.
Vault — 1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.90; 2. Julianna Cannamela, LSU, 9.85; T3. Abby Armbrecht, Shea Mahoney, Alabama, 9.825; T5. Myia Hambrick, Sarah Edwards, Lexie Priessman, LSU, Wynter Childers, Nicie Guerrero, Alabama, 9.80; 12. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 9.60.
Bars — 1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.975; T2. Myia Hambrick, Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.925; T4. Sami Durante, Ruby Harrold, Lexie Priessman, LSU, 9.90
Beam — 1. Nickie Guerrero, Alabama, 9.95; T2. Myia Hambrick, Kennedi Edney, Christina Desiderio, LSU, Peyton Ernst, Kiana Winston, Alabama, 9.875; T7. Erin Macadaeg, LSU, 9.825; 10. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.75; 12. Reagan Campbell, LSU, 9.20.
Floor — 1. Myia Hambrick, LSU, 9.95; T2. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, Kiana Winston, Alabama, 9.925; T4. Sarah Edwards, Julianna Cannamela, LSU, Abby Armbrecht, Nickie Guerrero, Alabama, 9.875; 8. Ashlyn Kirby, LSU, 9.85; 12. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 8.925.