After a gut-wrenching loss to top-ranked Florida last week, the LSU gymnastics team was looking to get back on track Friday night against an old nemesis.
However, No. 2 LSU fell behind from the start and couldn’t recover in a loss to No. 6 Alabama in Coleman Coliseum, where the Tigers had won the last three times it visited since 2015.
Alabama started strong and never looked back in claiming three of the four events, which produced a season-high score of 197.725 to LSU’s 197.325.
The Crimson Tide got a sparkling performance from Luisa Blanco, who won the all-around title with a 39.925 — the third-highest score in program history.
She won the bars with a 9.95 and beam with a 9.975 and recorded another 9.975 to share the floor exercise title with teammate Lexi Graber.
Alabama (5-1, 5-1 SEC) started the meet with a score of 49.450 in the vault and capped it with a 49.455 on the floor, widening its margin following the third and fourth rotations after setting the tone with the vault win.
Meanwhile, LSU (4-2, 3-2 SEC) couldn’t get going after posting the third-highest score in the nation — a 198.050 — when it lost by just one-tenth of a point to Florida in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Tigers coach Jay Clark said he didn’t think his team was flat after having some good practices during the week and a good warmup Friday night.
“I thought we were flat Sunday when we came back from that meet (against Florida),” he said. “But we did some outstanding bars tonight. It wasn’t our season-high, but we had some of our best bars of the year.”
LSU won the event with a 49.375 when the Tigers counted five scores between 9.90 and 9.85.
Alyona Shchennikova posted the 9.90, while Haleigh Bryant, Kiya Johnson and Sami Durante put up 9.875s. Olivia Dunne rounded out the team score with a 9.85.
But it wasn’t enough for LSU even though Alabama came up short with a 49.325 on bars, which was its second rotation.
LSU was still very much in it after its second rotation — vault.
The Tigers recorded a 49.325 when Bryant and Sarah Edwards each scored a 9.90, while Johnson and Durante each had a 9.85.
“We vaulted relatively well, minus one vault,” Clark said.
Alabama was ready to go from the start when Kaylee Quinn won the vault with a 9.95 and Blanco was right behind her with a 9.925 as the Tide put together a 49.450.
At the midway point of the meet, Alabama led 98.775-98.700.
But that’s where it got away from LSU, which ranks second in the nation on floor.
Bryant bounced back from a disappointing finish against Florida with a 9.95 and Edwards had her second 9.90 of the evening.
But the Tigers had to count a pair of 9.825s and a 9.75 and wound up with a season-low score of 49.250.
“The meet got tight at the end, and we got tight on the floor and made some mistakes on the first four routines,” Clark said. “We had some experienced kids and some inexperienced kids, but nevertheless, we let it get away from us.
“We fought hard on the balance beam after that, but it was just too late,” he said. “It’s part of the process; you learn from it and get better and continue to grind.”
Half of Clark’s regular floor rotation was not in the lineup Friday night.
Senior Reagan Campbell was out with a hip problem and Clark said Christina Desiderio had been struggling. Johnson also didn’t go because of Achilles’ soreness.
“That’s two seniors who’ve been on the floor the last two or three years, and three of our better better routines,” Clark said. “So we’re not done. We’ll get them back.
“Nevertheless, we made some mistakes that shouldn’t be made. We don’t typically see them and don’t expect to see based on how they trained. In warmups, they looked good … they were confident and loose and we felt everybody was in good shape.”
Meanwhile, Alabama was scoring a 49.400 on beam to virtually clinch the victory when the Crimson Tide’s lead swelled to 0.225 at 148.175-147.950 going to the final rotation.
Blanco finished off LSU with a 9.975 on floor, a score that Graber matched even though Bryant had a 9.95 and Edwards had a 9.90.
Bryant tied her career-high with a 39.600 in taking second behind Blanco in the all-around, while Shchennikova was fourth with a 39.300.
1. #6 Alabama 197.725 (Vault — 49.450, Bars — 49.325, Beam — 49.400, Floor — 49.550)
2. #2 LSU 197.325 (Bars — 49.375, Vault — 49.325, Floor — 49.250, Beam — 49.375)
Individual (includes first place and all LSU competitors)
All-around – 1. Luisa Blanco, Alabama, 39.825; 2. Haleigh Bryant, LSU, 39.600; 4. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 39.300.
Vault – 1. Kaylee Quinn, Alabama, 9.95; T3. Haleigh Bryant, Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.90; T6. Kiya Johnson, Sami Durante, LSU, 9.85; 10. Elena Arenas, LSU, 9.825; 11. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 9.775.
Bars – 1. Luisa Blanco, Alabama, 9.95; 2. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 9.90; T3. Haleigh Bryant, Kiya Johnson, Sami Durante, LSU, 9.875; T7. Olivia Dunne, LSU, 9.85; T10. Bridget Dean, LSU, 9.80.
Beam – 1. Luisa Blanco, Alabama, 9.975; T3. Alyona Shchennikova, Kiya Johnson, Haleigh Bryant, Bridget Dean, Christina Desiderio, LSU, 9.875; 12. Sami Durante, LSU, 9.625.
Floor – T1. Luisa Blanco, Lexi Graber, Alabama, 9.975; 3. Haleigh Bryant, LSU, 9.95; 4. Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.90; T9. Bridget Dean, Elena Arenas, LSU, 9.825; 11. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 9.75; 12. Sierra Ballard, LSU, 9.725.