LSU saved its best performance of the season for Friday night, and didn’t have anything left in the tank for Saturday. They rightly raised everyone’s hopes with an amazing semifinal performance, only to falter almost immediately in the Super Six.
We said all year that if each team brought their best performance, Oklahoma wins that match up. About the only comfort in the aftermath is that Oklahoma most certainly brought their A-game. The Sooners scored the highest they had all season, a simply dominant 198.3875. Even LSU’s remarkable 198.2750 score in the semifinals didn’t measure up to that.
The Sooners score on Saturday was the highest score posted by any team all year, and by a significant margin. No one was beating Oklahoma on Saturday night. The frustrating part is that LSU was nearly out of it on the first rotation.
The Tigers started the night on floor, and the first two gymnasts put up sub 9.800 scores to start off the meet. It was a bad start, especially damaging because it came on the floor, one of the highest scoring rotations for the team. The Tigers needed a big score early, and simply didn’t get it. The latter half of the rotation rallied, but it wasn’t enough.
LSU had one chance to get back into the meet on its second rotation, the vault. There was no major disaster on the vault, other than some large step outs on landings, but there were no big numbers put up. And after LSU’s two best events, they had scored 49.325 on floor and 49.300 on vault. That’s a good two-tenths of a point LSU left on the mat from their average performance, much less their top gear.
At this point, the meet was essentially over. Oklahoma had a massive lead, and LSU sat in third place, well behind Florida. There was virtually no chance that the Tigers could win the national title at this point, but they still dug deep and made a statement about the quality and heart of the team.
Down by 0.150 going into the final rotation, the balance beam, LSU put forth its best performance of the season in the event. Five of the six gymnasts in the rotation scored a 9.900 or above, each feeding off the previous’ terrific performance. Ashleigh Gnat closed out the meet, and her LSU career, with a 9.950, good enough for a 49.725 on the beam, and a remarkable comeback to seize second place.
Runner up is not where the team wanted to be, but how the meet went, this was a huge accomplishment, and LSU preserved its undefeated record all year against SEC teams. Florida could not hold off the charge, and LSU edged them on the podium, 197.7375 to 197.7000.
However, the team does bring home a lot of individual hardware. Individual titles are handed out based upon the semifinal performances, and that was the day in which the Tigers dominated. LSU won three individual national titles on Friday: Kennedi Edney on vault, Sarah Finnegan on bars, and Ashleigh Gnat on floor.
Sure, this team wanted to bring home the team trophy, but the individual titles are a huge accomplishment, and a testament to the quality of the program. And it’s not like runners-up is something to sneeze at. The goal was the national title, but this was still a wildly successful season, right up to the final weekend.
It’s tough to call such a big comeback with the team digging so deep within themselves a disappointment. At the end of the day, Oklahoma was the best team in the country. They spent almost the entire season ranked #1, and they closed out the season with their best performance of the year.
It wasn’t LSU’s highest scoring meet, but it might have been their best performance as well. They fought like Tigers.