Well, that was a bunch of fun, wasn’t it?
Beating Bama, regardless of the sport, is always a great thing, but it’s doubly sweet when we beat them at their place, in a matchup of top five teams, on national TV. Even better, the meet wasn’t particularly close. It wasn’t a total snoozer or anything, but we’re not arguing over fractional points at the end of this one.
OK, it did come down to the final beam slot, in which Ashleigh Gnat simply had to not fall off of Satan’s Apparatus to secure victory, but there was a moment where it got a bit dicey. She momentarily lost her balance early in the routine for a second, just enough for my heart to skip a beat. Gnat easily recovered, and turned in a solid 9.775 performance to secure the win.
Sometime it pays to be conservative. Besides, part of the reason LSU had a lead of over five tenths of a point headed to the final rotation was due to Gnat’s spectacular performance on the vault. Her perfect 10 put an exclamation point on a huge second rotation, and forced Bama into playing catch up for the rest of the meet.
It didn’t start that way. Bama came out of the first rotation with a slight lead, as LSU scored a 49.200 on bars to Bama’s 49.250 on vault. It’s not that LSU was bad on the bars, and 49.200 is a pretty damn good score, it’s just that the Tigers played it close to the vest on the first rotation on the road of the season.
And while LSU was trailing slightly, it was a missed opportunity for Alabama. Vault is one of the highest scoring average rotations, and the Tide did not build a big lead on LSU, who played it fairly conservative on their first rotation on bars. At this point, Bama should have had a lead of at least a tenth of point, and probably two. Their lack of big scores kept the door open for the Tigers, a door that they would kick right in.
LSU’s vault rotation became a game of anything you can do, I can do better. Sarah Finnegan led things off with a 9.850, and the rest of the squad was so impressive that LSU ended up dropping that score. When you drop a 9.850, you’ve absolutely crushed a rotation.
Outside of Kiana Wilson’s 9.950, Alabama did not get huge scores on the bars. It seemed like they took a page out of the LSU playbook, but while LSU benefited from Bama’ good not great vault score, Bama was simply buried by LSU’s 49.600 vault score. Halfway through the meet, LSU had a lead of 0.325.
It’s bad enough to be down to LSU at the halfway point, but then to have LSU go to its best event, the floor exercise? Alabama needed a spectacular beam score just to keep pace with the onslaught of big numbers that were to come. They didn’t get it.
Again, Alabama had a fine rotation on beam. They overcame an early fall with three consecutive 9.875 routines. Pressure was applied, and the team responded. The problem was, LSU was busy cracking 9.90 on three of its floor performances. Bama had a gutty performance on beam in a high pressure situation. Against most teams, that would have been the moment the tide of momentum turned.
LSU is not most teams. Instead. After Bama made their furious rally, they looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they had actually lost ground. LSU extended the lead to 0.575 with a 49.525 on the floor, and LSU entered the final rotation knowing that victory was assured provided they did not have to carry a fall.
Sydney Ewing made it interesting with a fall in the fourth slot, but Sarah Finnegan picked up her teammate by knocking it out of the park with a 9.925 on the very next turn. Then came Gnat’s brief bobble and conservative routine for a modest score, but a big win for the team.
Gnat’s 9.775 on beam cost her the individual overall title. Myia Hambrick, for a second consecutive week, took home the all-around title, though she did have to share it with Alabama’s Kiana Winston. LSU took home the win, 197.575-197.100. That’s the kind of score that can contend for the title in the Super Six.
Here’s the scary part… LSU didn’t even have their best meet. If LSU can do this while leaving points on the table, imagine what they are capable of when everything clicks. Gauntlet thrown. LSU is the team to beat this season.
After back-to-back Top 10 matchups to start the season, the competition levels off for a bit. LSU has a home meet next Friday against unranked Texas, followed by Top 25 UK, Mizzou, and Arkansas, all of which will be carried on SEC Network or SECN+. Then they head to a Missouri neutral site for a huge quad-meet with UGA, OU, and Mizzou.