In the first week of February, the LSU gymnastics team was getting ready to dive into the most challenging part of its regular-season schedule.
Facing four Southeastern Conference meets against top-10 teams — two at home and two on the road — was anything but a walk in the park, even for the nation’s No. 3 team.
So far, the Tigers have met that challenge.
Victories over Georgia and Auburn, which each were ranked ninth when LSU met them, and a win last week over then-No. 2 Florida leave the No. 2 Tigers on the verge of a clean sweep for the month.
LSU (9-1, 6-0) also has a chance to go unscathed through the conference — which would be a program first — when it concludes league play at 8 p.m. Friday against No. 5 Alabama (6-1, 4-1) in Tuscaloosa.
Friday’s meet, which will be televised by the SEC Network, will be the second matchup of top-five teams in eight days for LSU but one coach D-D Breaux and her team always look forward to because of the environment in Coleman Coliseum.
“We have to get out there, do our gymnastics and control what we can control,” Breaux said after LSU scored a 197.750 to top Florida last Friday. “Momentum is a powerful thing; we need to keep it going.”
Considering Alabama is the opponent shouldn’t hurt LSU’s motivation or the motivation of Breaux against her nemesis. Bama holds a 93-17-2 edge in the series.
Breaux doesn’t shy away when talking about her desire to beat the Crimson Tide — at anything — despite the retirement last spring of longtime Alabama coach Sarah Patterson.
“I want to beat Alabama in the English department. I want to beat Alabama in journalism,” Breaux said. “Most of all, I want to beat Alabama in gymnastics.”
LSU will be trying to do just that after achieving two of the highest scores in program history in the past three weeks — scores needed to take down Georgia and Florida, a pair of SEC and NCAA powers.
The Tigers scored a 198.075, the program’s second-highest score, to beat Georgia. The 197.950 they had in front of a record crowd of 12,217 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Florida was the fourth-highest in school history.
“We’ve just tried to take it one meet at a time,” LSU senior Lloimincia Hall said of the first three weeks of the rugged stretch. “Honestly, we don’t look at the opponent; we’re taught to just do our very best.
“We’re just trying to enjoy each and every moment and stay in the process,” added Hall, who was the SEC Specialist of the Week after a 9.975 on floor exercise against Florida. It was one of 12 scores of 9.90 or better for the Tigers.
“Our message last week was high motivation, high energy,” said Breaux. “It wasn’t screaming and hollering in your face so much, but there was a lot of enthusiasm and energy on the part of the coaches.”
It paid dividends, as it has for most of this season.
In addition to Hall, LSU had the SEC Co-Gymnast of the Week in senior Rheagan Courville, who won the all-around title against Florida with a 39.625. Jessie Jordan (39.575) and Ashleigh Gnat (39.550) were second and third.
Courville said a key to beating Alabama will be carrying over what the Tigers did to top Florida and not take even a small step back.
“We realize at this point we’re still working on the details,” she said. “We’re not there yet. We’re not the team we want to be at the end (of the season).”