Halfway through the Super Six, things looked bleak for LSU. The Tigers were in fifth place, looking up at a Georgia team that did not harbor any realistic title hopes, much less the three front-runners.
It wasn't that LSU was bad in its first two rotations, it was just that the team was not excellent. And this, being the national championships, requires excellence to have any shot at winning the meet. LSU had two solid, good not great rotations, and found itself in a deep hole because of it. This wasn't some random mid-February meet. It would take a superb performance to contend.
LSU took the second half of the meet by storm and nearly came all the way back to win the national title. The meet came to its close with LSU clinging to first place, watching an Oklahoma team trying to match their score which, unfortunately, they did.
However, the furious rally falling short should not detract at all from the greatness of the performance. This team wasn't supposed to contend for a title at all, and there they were, looking hopefully at a scoreboard during the final floor routine. Talent is one thing, and this team has it, but it also has guts.
This team dug deep at the most important time in the season, and came up with its biggest performance. It would have been easy to put up some solid scores on the final two rotations, finish fourth overall and declare this season a huge win and one to build one. Heck, that's what I was thinking about at the midway point.
Instead, LSU scored a 49.4625 on the floor, buoyed by 9.925 scores from the team's two stars, Myia Hambrick and Ashleigh Gnat. That put LSU into a position in which the Tigers had a shot if they came through in the final rotation. And come through they did.
9.90. 9.90. 9.90. That's how the vault rotation started, three straight scores of 9.90. Gnat would close things out a huge 9.95 to anchor, closing a 49.525 rotation. That could have, maybe should have, been enough to win the title.
But other teams are trying to win the thing, too. The top four teams went into the final rotation separated by just two tenths of a point, and all four schools went out there and acted like teams that wanted desperately to win the title. Bama scored a 49.450 on the beam, Florida scored a 49.450 on the bars, and Oklahoma held off all comers by scoring 49.575 on the floor.
That was, simply put, an epic final rotation between the four best teams in the nation. That's what you want the season to come down to, taking your best shot against the best teams on the biggest stage, while they take their best, too.
In the end, the high variance of LSU's high-risk, high-reward style fell short of Oklahoma's robotic efficiency. LSU is capable of moving your spirit, but Oklahoma is a team that just does not make mistakes. It's like competing against the Terminator, only they have a whole team of them.
The Sooners were the best team in the Fort Worth, and they deserved to win the title. They make worthy champions. But it was LSU that ended up owning this meet. Their furious charge fell short, but they displayed the heart of champions.
As fans, that's all we can ask.