It’s a term used to describe squads that have faced top tier competition in hostile environments under immense pressure. It defines the week-to-week grind against rival teams and the toughening of a squad as each event passes.
The No. 3 LSU gymnastics team is becoming far too familiar with that description.
More than six weeks into the season, the Tigers have begun the grueling task of trudging through Southeastern Conference meets. Fortunately for LSU, its deep roster will prove to be crucial down the stretch as the Tigers continue their run for a title.
The challenging schedule was never more apparent than Friday in Auburn, Alabama, where LSU squeaked out a 197.350-197.000 victory against the No. 9 team in the nation. It came down to a clutch effort on the beam by senior Jessie Jordan, who scored a 9.925 to help propel the Tigers.
It was the type of win LSU needed.
“You always want to win, but you don’t always want to win by a landslide,” freshman all-arounder Myia Hambrick said. “When that happens, then your mind kind of overtakes your gymnastics. Then you just kind of forget that you have to do everything technically correct. I think it is good for us to have a little bit of a nail-biter so we can check ourselves sometimes.”
The road hasn’t been smoothly paved the past few weeks.
Before the Tigers’ win at Auburn, LSU squared off against No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 8 Arkansas in the Metroplex Challenge in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena. LSU finished second behind the Sooners, falling 197.700-197.425.
Jordan said the premier competition has been a positive experience for the Tigers.
“As we’ve progressed through the season, each team has gotten a little bit better and continued to push us to grow as a team and to really focus on the small details that are going to matter toward the end,” Jordan said.
She said each new squad LSU faces pushes the Tigers to “their full potential.”
And the path to a national title doesn’t get any easier Friday.
No. 2 Florida will make an appearance at the Pete Maravich Assembly Ccenter, and they Gators will bring a strikingly similar skill set to Baton Rouge. The Gators and Tigers are tied at No. 2 on bars with 49.388 averages, and tied for No. 3 on floor with 49.342 averages.
Sophomore all-arounder Ashleigh Gnat said LSU’s deep roster could be a deciding factor. Eleven of the squad’s 15 members contributed to LSU’s victory at Auburn.
“Every week we face something extremely different, and every week we also learn different things,” Gnat said. “Being able to swap people in and out of the lineup every week also shows the depth that we have on this team. It shows how strong we really are. And this week, I think we’re very prepared and excited.”
The Tigers’ depth has allowed LSU coach D-D Breaux to tinker with the lineup in the week leading up to each respective meet.
It’s a valuable attribute for any squad looking to make a late-season push.
“We like the flexibility that we’ve been able to have,” Breaux said. “We’ve been able to put someone into the lineup and take someone out of the lineup and not really feel a difference in what this team can accomplish.”
“I think just our ability and our willingness to do that has built some confidence in our depth.”