The LSU gymnastics team is typically used to screaming Tiger fans, but when they travel to face Auburn on Friday, they will face an entirely different crowd.
LSU coach D-D Breaux said the crowd in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Fridays in unrivaled when it comes to positive and uplifting energy. LSU fans cheer for the success of Tigers instead of the downfall of the opponent.
“It’s different at Auburn, but I think this team will be mature and ready to handle anything,” Breaux said.
Auburn’s arena is newer and the fans are closer to the floor than in the PMAC, allowing for a lot more hostile environment than the team is used to.
In past years, Breaux has walked over to the student section of the Auburn Arena as a way to take the “roughness” out of what they might be saying to the gymnasts.
“We’ve experienced this the last few times we’ve been there,” Breaux said. “I kind of got them to calm down. They do this rolling, screaming thing as the kids run down the runway and make this explosion sound as they hit the board. It’s really dangerous more than distracting.”
The Tigers are coming off a 196.775-195.650 season-opening win over Cal and are looking to improve from meet to meet.
The 196.775 was the lowest score for LSU since scoring a 196.875 against Georgia in 2014, and sticking vaults will be key to getting the score back up to 197.
“This whole entire fall and preseason we’ve been hitting 197, so we know what we’re capable of,” senior McKenna Kelley said. “(Associate head coach Jay Clark) says that if we hit the vault lineup the way we have been, the 197 would’ve been a no-brainer. We know where we need to improve and get better, and this week is a good week of training.”
Sometimes the first-meet jitters have a way of coming back during the first road meet in a different environment, especially for freshmen and sophomores who might not have competed last season.
The Tigers have six sophomores, five of whom will be consistent contributors to the lineups this season. Christina Desiderio, Bridget Deam, Reagan Campbell and Sami Durante hold down the front half of LSU’s beam lineup, while Dean and Durante will add to LSU’s depth on bars.
Sarah Edwards competed on both floor and vault against Cal.
“That sophomore class is half our team, and to see how they’ve collectively stepped up this year has been unbelievable,” Kelley said. “Them all together, their maturity level has really stepped up and they’re getting the job done.”
Breaux said that while the sophomores did not exceed any expectations with their performance in the first meet, they are exactly where they need to be in order to improve going forward.
The depth of LSU’s experience in its juniors and seniors balances out the youth of its underclassmen.
The coaches and gymnasts alike have identified the issues going into the second meet of the season. Breaux said that knowing what the issue is makes it easier to fix going forward.
“It’s hard, especially with a new environment (on the road),” Kelley said. “The freshmen and people in the lineups who are new to that, it can be nerve-racking. We’re still there to do the job. We’re there to improve. We’re not looking for perfection, especially not the second meet, but we’re looking to see where we can get better.”