It was in a casino ballroom, one with lower ceilings than the massive arenas in which the LSU gymnastics team customarily competes. It began at 9 p.m. — a start time that, in hindsight, LSU coach D-D Breaux says, she should have moved to around 7 p.m. — a time when her team is more accustomed to competing.
The Tigers also rested some injuries, suffered another one during the meet and debuted some new athletes on new events — all while a throng of fans followed in closer proximity than ever.
“That’s no excuse,” said junior all-arounder Ashleigh Gnat. “We’re a championship-caliber team, and I think that what happened is only going to happen one time, and we’re going to continue to move forward from that.”
“That” was a sluggish 195.825 team score in a win against NC State at the Lady Luck Invitational last Thursday in Las Vegas, dropping the Tigers six spots from their No. 1 ranking to No. 7 and temporarily quelling any momentum their season-opening upset of then-No. 1 Oklahoma provided.
Tonight’s 7:30 p.m SEC opener against No. 20 Kentucky in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center provides a chance to wrangle back the spark LSU had against the Sooners in preparation for next week’s prestigious Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth.
“By the standard this team has set, it certainly was not a great team score,” Breaux said. “(There was) such a high on Saturday versus Oklahoma, and we only had two days in the gym to kind of bring that down and bring it back up. We had a lot of emotional things to deal with.”
LSU counted three scores of 9.4 or lower — all falls on beam and floor — while sophomore all-arounder Myia Hambrick crashed off the balance beam and could not perform her floor routine for precautionary reasons.
Hambrick smashed her thigh into the beam, finished the routine and immediately iced the injury afterward to prevent muscle tightening. Breaux held her off floor in an abundance of caution.
“It was, on my part, a lack of mental toughness, really. And after that, we let that part slip away,” Hambrick said. “When you hit the beam like that, sometimes it can be pretty bad — fractures and things — but thankfully I’m fine.”
In Hambrick’s place, classmate Erin Macadaeg anchored with a 9.95 in her first collegiate floor routine, more accentuating the depth LSU has on floor.
Against Oklahoma, Shae Zamardi’s first collegiate floor set went for a 9.925, and the Tigers have mixed lineups around injuries to freshman McKenna Kelley and senior Jessica Savona — both of whom Breaux expects to become mainstays in the rotation.
Kelley, who competed floor against Oklahoma, rested for the entire Lady Luck Invitational. Savona, forecast before the season to be the floor anchor, competed just a bars routine, during which she fell, getting a dropped 9.125. Both are dealing with ankle injuries.
Breaux was coy about the floor status of both for Friday’s meet against Kentucky, saying only “we’ll know on Friday.”
Friday’s meet will also feature a color variation — when LSU “Geauxs Pink and Blue” to raise awareness for breast and prostate cancer.
The team has annually held a “Pink Meet” in accordance with former LSU linebacker Bradie James’ Foundation 56 Fund to raise breast cancer awareness. But Breaux added blue to the scheme last season in part to honor her brother-in-law, who died of prostate cancer, and recognize her sister’s foundation that raises awareness for the disease.
“It affects everybody,” Breaux said. “The kids enjoy it because the kids have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers, and it’s impacted them.”