D-D Breaux doesn’t know how Friday night will go.
No one does, really.
This time last year, the LSU gymnastics coach had a good idea what to expect heading into the first gymnastics meet of the season. Back then, the majority of her team, which finished as the national runner-up, was back and ready to make another run. The Tigers did just, finishing No. 2 in the nation again.
But when they make their entrance into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center this weekend, Ashleigh Gnat won’t be there. Neither will Sydney Ewing. McKenna Kelley will be in attendance but must cheer on teammates from her knee walker.
LSU will have seven freshmen and a need to solve questions throughout its lineup — like who competes in floor and who can compete in all-around.
Whether those answers reveal themselves Friday night is anyone’s guess.
There is one absolute in the whole situation, though.
This isn’t last year’s team.
“It is a different team, but every year is a different team,” senior Myia Hambrick said. “We’ve always said that ever since I’ve been here, that every team is a different team. When people see this team and say it’s a different team than last year, I’m like, ‘Well, last year was also different than my sophomore year, too.’ ”
Breaux said the main difference between this year and last year is that LSU won’t be able to go on “autopilot” during the season.
With so many injuries and returns from injuries, it may take a few weeks to figure out who is healthy enough to compete and who fits where.
Right now, Breaux is considering Erin Macadaeg for up to three events. She’s also hoping to see Julianna Cannamela and freshman Reagan Campbell step up this year.
Freshman Christina Desiderio may be another all-around competitor in a month or so, but Breaux said she came in out of shape after taking a break from gymnastics following her run to the U.S. Olympic Trials last year.
Lexie Priessman will only compete in bars Friday night but could add another two events after further rehab from a knee injury.
“These kids know what they’re up against, and we know what it takes to get them ready,” Breaux said. “You just can’t rush kids that have had injuries and kids that are rehabilitating from minor surgeries in some cases, major in others. It’s a process, and we have to stay in that process and stay with them.”
With so many questions in the air, Hambrick said it’s impossible to guess at what LSU’s identity will be this season.
She noted last year’s team that was praised for being so close and having so much fun, didn’t start to click until after a few meets, and this team likely won’t settle in either until some time has passed.
It comes down to how the new additions handle the rigors of collegiate gymnastics and what they can add to the program.
Hambrick views the freshmen as “innocent” souls until they can experience for themselves a real meet, no matter how much the upperclassmen try to prepare them.
Hambrick won’t be completely alone in her mission to lead the team, though.
Junior Sarah Finnegan returns after becoming the first gymnast in school history to win a national championship on bars.
“It’s going to be different just because it’s going to be a new team,” Finnegan said. “But it’s going to be different each year. I don’t think the expectation is any less or more than previous years. Our job is just to get int here and show people what we’ve been practicing all preseason.”