After an NCAA regional win Saturday, the LSU gymnastics team received the best possible news it could get when the Tigers returned to practice Monday.
No. 4 LSU learned it will start the second semifinal session of the NCAA championships on vault, the event the Tigers begin regular-season home meets with.
LSU then will have a bye before beam and bars, then a second bye before finishing up on floor exercise.
The Tigers rank second in the nation on vault and lead the country on floor — which means they’ll begin and end the competition with their two strongest events.
They hope the familiar — and favorable — draw propels them to a top-three finish and a berth in the Super Six finals when they face No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 5 Alabama, No. 8 Auburn, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 12 Oregon State at 7 p.m. April 17 in the Fort Worth Convention Center.
In the first semifinal session at 1 p.m., No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Utah, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 UCLA, No. 10 Georgia and No. 11 Stanford will meet to fill the first three Super Six spots.
While LSU (24-2) already defeated three of the other teams in its semifinal — Alabama, Auburn and Nebraska — the Tigers lost to Oklahoma, which shared the NCAA title with Florida last season, and Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championships.
LSU coach D-D Breaux and her team welcome the challenge.
“It’s the national championships; you expect it to be hard,” Breaux said Monday. “The three best teams are going to come out of the semifinals and get in the Super Six, and the best team in the nation will come out of that.”
All-Americans Jessie Jordan and Rheagan Courville agreed.
“When you’re going to nationals, anyone you’re going to compete against is going to be a tough competition,” said Jordan, who won the all-around title at the Ames regional Saturday. “It’s not anything we need to be focused on. What we need to be focused on is competing well and staying in the process and just doing the best we can.”
“It’s going to be tough in general because these are all amazing teams,” Courville said. “It’ll create an exciting environment, but it always is because there’s so much great gymnastics there. We’ve seen these teams before, so we’re just going to do what we’ve been doing all season.”
There will be one little twist in their preparations. To mimic the two-day team competition, Breaux is putting her team through a dry run of sorts this week.
After practice sessions Monday and Tuesday, the Tigers will get a day off Wednesday and then work out Thursday as if they were holding their final practice at the meet site in Fort Worth.
After a team meal Thursday night, Breaux and her staff will put the team through intrasquad scrimmages Friday and Saturday to determine the lineup they will, for the most part, send out for the semifinals.
“(The intrasquad) is similar to what we do in the regular season,” Breaux said. “It puts the kids who compete well in a situation where they can thrive and show she’s capable of making that lineup for that competition.
“We’re even going to have a team meal so the kids can get that mindset.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.