There are few sports where you can win so much by losing. But that’s the position the LSU gymnastics team finds itself in after an inspiring defeat last Friday at Florida.
Yes, the Tigers suffered their first loss of 2020 in a 198.375-197.775 decision in Gainesville, Florida. But it was LSU’s best score of the young season by more than a full point over what the Tigers showed in their three wins, a staggering leap of improvement by gymnastics standards.
“Yes, we lost the meet, but we gained so much,” said senior Ruby Harrold, who helped the LSU cause at Florida with a 9.975 on uneven bars and a 9.95 on vault. “We got the score we wanted. We got multiple people competing in consistent spots. There’s nothing to be ashamed or sad about. We did really well.”
Now the goal is to stack one strong performance on top of another, as No. 6-ranked LSU returns home to host No. 7 Alabama. First vault is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the SEC Network.
A team meeting last week may have gone a long way to putting LSU, a program used to being among the nation’s very best, on an LSU-like footing after the Tigers failed to crack a score of 197 in their first three meets.
“At the beginning of the week we always have a meeting,” junior Sami Durante said. “Last week in our meeting it was like, ‘It’s time to put it together. Let’s go. What are we doing?’ I think the whole week that’s what we went on and it worked out for us.”
With the passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant on Sunday, the number 24 has taken on extra prominence in the sports world. It’s always an important number in college gymnastics, where the mantra is to go “24 for 24,” as in hitting all 24 routines with all six gymnasts in all four events.
“We’re definitely a capable 197 team,” Harrold said. “Not to do that the first few meets was disappointing, but now we’re climbing our mountain. It’s a case of keeping it going.
“There’s always room for improvement and gymnastics is so subjective, so it could fluctuate up or down. But at the end of the day as long as we’re doing our job and we’re going 24-for-24 you can’t really be upset about the outcome.”
Having a 24-for-24 night took on an added degree of difficulty for this week with the injury to Sarah Edwards.
The junior from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, suffered a left ankle sprain midway through her floor routine at Florida. LSU co-head coach D-D Breaux said she could be out up to three weeks.
Edwards has been competing on vault as well for LSU. Breaux said the Tigers would likely have to turn to freshman walk-on Lexie Nibbs to fill Edwards’ spot in the vault rotation and junior Bridget Dean on floor.
“Looking forward to what we’re going to face Friday night is a very good, very improved Alabama team,” Breaux said. “What we did Friday night we’ll have to come in here and do and plug in a hole in floor and hope to go 49.3 or 49.4” on that event.
LSU may need another strong showing from freshman sensation Kiya Johnson. The Dallas native won SEC freshman of the week honors after scoring a 10 on balance beam at Florida, the first LSU freshman in 16 years with a perfect score. She had a 39.600 as an all-arounder, LSU’s only gymnast in all four events along with senior and two-time NCAA champion Kennedi Edney.
LSU: Buy tickets, arrive early
LSU officials anticipate one of the season’s largest crowds for Friday’s meet, so fans are encouraged to arrive early. Doors to the PMAC will open at 5:30 p.m. for students and 5:45 for the public.
Purchasing tickets ahead of online or by phone is also encouraged to avoid long lines. Visit www.LSUTix.net or call the LSU Athletic Ticket Office at (225) 578-2184 or (800) 960-8587. LSU students are admitted free with valid identification.
Finnegan bobblehead night
The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a Sarah Finnegan bobble head. Finnegan, the two-time NCAA champion and 23-time All-American, is expected to be one of more than 60 former Tiger gymnasts in attendance. They will be recognized before the meet.
Team SEC Pct. Overall Pct. Average
Florida 3-0 1.000 3-0 1.000 197.525
Kentucky 2-0 1.000 5-1 .833 196.250
LSU 2-1 .667 3-1 .750 196.700
Auburn 2-1 .667 3-3 .500 195.994
Georgia 0-1 .000 4-4 .500 196.219
Alabama 0-1 .000 1-3-1 .300 196.667
Arkansas 0-2 .000 0-4 .000 196.106
Missouri 0-3 .000 1-4 .200 195.838
Florida 198.375, LSU 197.775
Kentucky 196.750, Arkansas 196.650
Auburn 196.700, Missouri 196.650
Oklahoma 197.525, Denver 196.575, Alabama 196.575, Georgia 196.300#
Alabama at LSU, 7:30 p.m. (SEC)
Arkansas at Missouri, 6 p.m. (SEC)
Florida at Kentucky, 6 p.m.
Auburn at Georgia, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
#-Metroplex Challenge, Fort Worth, Texas
All times Central