Gymnastics went big time last year. LSU competed in front of packed houses, and the team became the darlings of the winter sport slate. They set records for high scores throughout the year, and even forced their way to the top of the rankings.
And then the postseason happened. LSU failed to win the SEC meet, struggled in regional qualifying, and finally failed to reach the Super Six. This was a tremendous fall for a team that harbored ambitions for a national title. Off the mat, this team was a huge success. People flocked to meets and the gym team forged its own identity. However, on the mat, last year was a failure. It would have been okay to fall short of the title, as there was some stiff competition, but the failure to reach the Super Six with perhaps the best senior class in school history stings.
The good news is, the team's recent success helped DD Breaux bring in the #1 recruiting class in the country. While established stars like Rheagan Courville, Jessie Jordan, and Llomincia Hall exit stage left, hopefully a new set of stars showed up just in time to replace them.
The cupboard is also not bare. LSU returns four 1st Team All-Americans, plus Sydney Ewing, who finished 2nd team in two different events (beam and floor). The biggest issue for the team, aside from losing perhaps the best gymnast in school history in Courville, is its youth.
Randii Wyrick is the only senior All-American (uneven bars) from last season. Jessica Savona is the team leader and served as the opener on bars and floor last year. It's now a question of whether she keeps that critical role of tone setter or moves to the anchor slot. Savona was an All-American on floor in 2014, but she had a disastrous meet in Fort Worth by her standards, and the team was left scrambling to make up scores on her rotations instead of building off of her foundation like they had all season. Savona was one of the critical components of last season's team, and now she moves into the spotlight.
However, the stars of this team are the junior. Ashleigh Gnat, Miya Hambrick, and Shae Zamardi all earned All-American honors last season, and join Ewing as part of a stellar class. Towards the end of the year, Bug started challenging Courville as one of the stars of the All-Around. She'll be the anchor of this year's team, and relied on to compete in the All-Around.
Buga in football, Bug in gym. We got the insect thing covered in Baton Rouge right now.
LSU earned a #5 ranking in the preseason coaches' poll, safely ensconced in the top six. The Super Six is again the team's goal, but this year's team has only an outside shot at winning the national title, simply making the Super Six is a more reasonable goal with such a young, though talented, team.
Right out of the gate, we'll see how good this team is as the #1 team in the country comes to town. Oklahoma is legit, and have been locked in a struggle with #2 Florida the past two seasons for the national title. They have finished as the top two teams in the nation in consecutive years, even sharing the title two seasons ago. LSU will get to measure up against Florida later in the season in conference play.
While coming out with a win over the best team in the country is a tall order, it is not out of this team's grasp. I expect this team will have a bit of a roller coaster this season, as sometimes that youth will betray the talent on the roster. Consistency will be the buzzword this year, and it's okay to spend the early months trying to find the right lineup on each rotation, given the amount of talent leaving the program. It's not about winning January, it's about winning in March and April.