Much better, but in terms of wins and losses still not quite good enough for the LSU gymnastics team.
With a loss at Auburn last Friday to open the seven-meet Southeastern Conference portion of their schedule, No. 5-ranked LSU needed a big win at home Friday night in a tough spot against No. 3 Florida.
LSU came through with its season-best score, but still fell in a close and contentious meet to Florida 197.500-197.425 before a near-capacity crowd of 12,093 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU fell to 1-2 and 0-2 in SEC competition, denting the Tigers hopes of a third straight SEC regular season championship and ending a 39-meet home winning streak that dated back to the start of the 2014 season. Florida is 2-0 and 2-0.
“It was so close,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “So close. You couldn’t ask for the kids to give us more enthusiasm or ask the crowd to give us more than they did.”
While the team win went to Florida, individually the night belonged to LSU senior Sarah Finnegan.
The reigning SEC gymnast of the year and SEC all-around champion, Finnegan won or shared first place on vault, bars and floor and edged Florida’s Trinity Thomas for the all-around title, 39.700-39.650.
“Consistency wins,” Breaux said of Finnegan. “She has proven to be that consistent performer, the glue at the end of our lineup.”
Finnegan tied a career high on vault with a 9.925, set a season high on bars with a 9.975, wobbled a bit with a 9.85 on beam but came back strong with a 9.95 on floor.
The score on bars meant one of the two judges gave Finnegan a 10. Asked if she thought it was a perfect score, Finnegan grinned and replied, “You never know.”
“I’ll tell you,” said fellow senior McKenna Kelley sitting next to her. “It was.”
The big question going into the meet was whether Kelley would be able to perform. Kelley scratched from floor exercise at Auburn after injuring her ankle on a practice run, prompting an MRI on Monday. This after sitting out all of the 2018 season with an Achilles’ tendon tear she suffered in November 2017.
But Kelley practiced all week and was back in the lineup against Florida, not only in the anchor position on floor but on vault as well. She scored a 9.825 on vault, tying her career high, and ended with a 9.875 on floor, not quite enough for the Tigers to pull out the win. Kelley would have needed a 9.975, and the crowd thinking she had at done something in the 9.9s grumbled when her score went up.
“I had a sharp pain in my ankle,” Kelley said of her practice landing at Auburn, “a random thing. They made the safe call not to put me in, but I had the X-ray Monday and everything was OK.
“I decided at this point in the season everyone is hurting. If they can do it, so can I. I feel good about what I did.”
LSU led 148.075-148.000 going into the final routine, with the Tigers on floor and the Gators on beam. LSU turned in a solid 49.350, but Florida’s 49.475 on beam, which included four scores of 9.90 or better, was the difference.
After the meet there were some heated moments between both coaching staffs when LSU’s coaches questioned if a Florida gymnast had gone over the allotted time of 1 minute, 30 seconds for her floor routine.
In the end, the routine actually improved the Gators’ final score from a 197.475 to 197.500 when they were able to count a 9.825 from Amanda Hundley and throw out a 9.80 from Sydney Johnson-Scharp.
“There is always a little frustration” when you don’t win the meet, Finnegan said. “But it’s the third meet. We knew Florida would be hard competition. We didn’t have the most fantastic meets the past two meets, so we just focused on ourselves and improving the little things.
“We broke 197 for the first time and hit on all our routines. We’re moving in the right direction.”
After winning the first two SEC regular-season championships in 2017 and 2018, LSU may already be out of contention for that trophy despite its lofty national ranking.
Breaux, however, refused to see it that way.
“We could run the table,” she said. “Who knows? That’s why we play it all the way to the end.”
LSU returns to action at 8 p.m. next Friday at No. 17 Alabama, and is next at home Feb. 1 against North Carolina State.
Finnegan led off on vault with a career-high tying 9.925 to win that event. She followed up with a 9.975 to win on bars, getting a perfect 10 from one of the two judges. She then tied for first with Florida’s Trinity Thomas with a 9.95 on floor and won the all-around with a 39.700.
The four individual titles gave Finnegan 55 for her career, moving her past former LSU All-American Myia Hambrick (52) for ninth place on LSU’s all-time list.
LSU returns to action at 8 p.m. next Friday at Alabama, and is next at home Feb. 1 against North Carolina State.
1. #3 Florida 197.500 (Vault – 49.225, Bars – 49.350, Beam – 49.350, Floor – 49.450)
2. #5 LSU 197.425 (Vault – 49.250, Bars – 49.525, Beam – 49.300, Floor – 49.350)
Individual (includes first place and all LSU competitors)
All-Around — 1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 39.700; 2. Trinity Thomas, Florida, 39.650; 3. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 39.450; 4. Alicia Boren, Florida, 39.400.
Vault — 1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.925; T3. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 9.85; T7. McKenna Kelley, Lexie Priessman, Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.825; 12. Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.30.
Bars — 1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.975; 2. Lexie Priessman, LSU, 9.95; T3. Kennedi Edney, 9.925; 7. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 9.875; T9. Sami Durante, LSU, 9.80; 12. Bridget Dean, LSU, 9.75.
Beam — 1. Rachel Gowey, Florida, 9.925; T2. Kennedi Edney, Reagan Campbell, LSU, 9.90; T7. Christina Desiderio, Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.85; 11. Bridget Dean, LSU, 9.80; 12. Sami Durante, 9.775.
Floor — T1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, Trinity Thomas, Florida, 9.95; T5. Ruby Harrold, McKenna Kelley, LSU, 9.875; 8. Reagan Campbell, LSU, 9.85; T10. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.80; 12. Lexie Priessman, LSU, 9.30.