As her team celebrated the highest finish in program history at the NCAA gymnastics championships last April, LSU coach D-D Breaux stood by and applauded Oklahoma on winning the national title after years of frustration.
OU actually shared the title with Florida and Breaux, whose team wound up in third place just a little more than a half-point behind the Sooners and Gators, soaked it all in.
“You’ve got to hang around for a number of years,” Breaux said that night, “and Oklahoma has done that in coming close over the years.”
Breaux, no doubt, was wondering when the LSU program might be able to do the same. She hopes it’s soon, of course, as she heads into the 2015 season — her 38th as the Tigers head coach.
“I can close my eyes and picture us winning a national championship,” Breaux said as the third-ranked Tigers put the final touches on their preseason preps in advance of Friday’s 7:30 p.m. season opener with Iowa in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“We do the work, we recruit athletes of that caliber … our coaching staff works hard together and has great chemistry,” she said. “Things are rolling in the right direction. I’m very confident and very enthusiastic, and I believe in this team.”
Building off that third-place finish, which was forged with a score of at least 197 in a school-record 13 consecutive competitions in a row, LSU looks to take the next step this season with 11 returning letter-winners — including seven All-Americans — and four promising newcomers.
But they know nothing will come easy over a three-month journey that they hope will bring them to the national semifinals and a berth in the Super Six finals for the third year in a row.
Breaux was named the national coach of the year last spring, while Jay Clark and Bob Moore were chosen as the national co-assistant coaches of the year in a vote of their peers.
They, along with volunteer assistant Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, want their team to pick up where it left off with a trio of seniors in Rheagan Courville, Jessie Jordan and Lloimincia Hall.
“Coming off a great fall training and practice season, we want to get out there and make a statement,” Breaux said. “We want to pile up a bunch of 9.85s, 9.9s and 9.95s and walk out of the arena with the highest opening score we’ve ever had.
“What we expect is consistency,” said Breaux, whose team set an opening-night record with a 197.200 last season. “We want the ladies to go out there and have a fun experience and be successful.”
The roster is topped by Courville, a two-time national champion and 16-time All-American. Jordan is a six-time All-American, while Hall has earned four All-America certificates.
Other key seniors are Britney Ranzy and Scarlett Williams, a transfer from Arkansas.
Juniors Jessica Savona and Randii Wyrick, an All-American, are also being counted on as well as two sophomores who earned All-America status in their first year — Sydney Ewing and Ashleigh Gnat.
Add three freshmen to the mix and Breaux believes the pieces are in place despite the loss of three contributors from last year’s team — Sarie Morrison, Kaleigh Dickson and Maliah Mathis.
“The last two years, we’ve been within striking distance,” Breaux said. “If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. If you don’t hang around that goal and talk about it and believe, it’ll never happen. We’re hanging around that goal.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.