The LSU gymnastics team is used to large crowds inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
But when a record 5,655 fans packed the arena on Friday night — the most ever for a season opener — the No. 3 Tigers (1-0) began the season on a strong note with a 197.125-193.300 win against Iowa.
Expectations were high before taking on the Hawkeyes.
Two new banners dropped from the PMAC rafters Friday evening. One recognized senior Rheagan Courville for winning an NCAA title on vault last season. The other acknowledged the Tigers’ Super Six Championship appearance in 2014.
Before competition even began, LSU coach D-D Breaux said her squad had to adjust to the electric environment.
“I think they had some jitters,” Breaux said. “Vaulting warmup was an absolute nightmare. And not just for the freshmen.”
Whatever nerves Courville may have had, she shook them off quickly in her first rotation.
The Baton Rouge native stuck her landing on her first vault of the new season, scoring a 9.900 to open the season.
Fellow senior Lloimincia Hall also impressed on her opening vault of the season, scoring a 9.875. Freshman Myia Hambrick began her LSU career with a 9.850 in her first vault of the season. After one rotation, the Tigers had an early advantage, leading Iowa 49.225-48.275.
LSU only heated up when it took its turn on the bars.
Four Tigers scored a 9.900 or higher on the bars: Courville, senior Jessie Jordan, junior Randii Wyrick and sophomore Shae Zamardi. Courville was nearly perfect, sticking her landing and receiving a 9.975 from the judges.
Hambrick continued her momentum to the bars, scoring a 9.850. Overall, the Tigers finished with a 49.600 on the bars. After two rotations, LSU led Iowa 98.825-96.575.
On the balance beam, Tigers freshman Erin Macadaeg thrived. The freshman from Redwood City, California, had a clean performance on the beam, finishing with a 9.900 in her first beam appearance of her career.
Courville said she continues to be impressed by her freshmen teammates.
“I think they’ve worked so incredibly hard, and they really listen to everything and take in each practice and try to get better each time,” Courville said.
Courville scored a 9.850 on the beam, and Jordan capped off LSU’s turn, scoring a 9.925.
Heading into the final rotation, the Tigers’ lead only widened as LSU held a commanding 148.150-135.650 lead against the Hawkeyes.
Junior Jessica Savona gave LSU the start it desired in floor exercise, scoring a 9.900 to open the final rotation. She led off on the bars and on the floor, a first for the Ontario, Canada, native.
“That was something different for me, but I knew a good start gives momentum, and momentum is a powerful drug,” Savona said. “It was exciting, and I tried to stay as focused as I could.”
Sophomore Ashleigh Gnat stepped out of bounds during her routine, resulting in a 9.600. Jordan got the Tigers back on track, though, scoring a 9.925 on the team’s next floor routine. Hambrick fell on the ensuing performance, scoring a 9.350.
Courville and Hall ended LSU’s night with floor routines of 9.725 and 9.825 as the Tigers scored a 48.975 on the floor.
Jordan won the all-around title as well as on the beam and on the floor, while Courville took titles in the vault and the bars. It was LSU’s 14th-consecutive meet of scoring 197 or higher.
“The word that is resonating with me right now is ‘relevant,’ ” Breaux said. “I think this team is very relevant. They’re very deserving of high rankings and high expectations. They made some mistakes tonight, but no mistake tonight was as serious as world hunger.”