On the one hand, everything went according to plan. LSU got out to an early lead, held on to it and extended it as the meet went on, and was never in any real danger of failing to advance to Nationals.
On the other hand, the Raleigh regional served as one giant warning to LSU. The Tigers didn’t have a bad meet, but they didn’t have a dominant one either, and it opened the door for another contender, who would dog them for the entire competition. Once Nebraska believed they could win, they competed like they could, turning out their best meet of the season.
LSU opened with a solid performance on the floor. Not great, just solid, and then was downright shaky on the vault. It wasn’t until an early fall on that second rotation that LSU seemed to snap to attention and start throwing down big scores.
While it is a good sign that the team responded to adversity by upping their game, it’s a concern that there was adversity at all. This was supposed to be an easy win while everyone else was caught in a dogfight. LSU cannot afford to wait until their backs are against the wall to start bringing their best. If you do that at Nationals, you might not even make the Super Six. There is much less margin for error there. And again, its not like anyone in their right mind would call one 49.350 on floor a bad score, but its also not the kind of score that will win LSU the national title once the competition stiffens up.
LSU was in danger of carrying a fall on the vault, but Julianna Cannamela came through with a huge stick, scoring a 9.90 and starting a trio of 9.90 or better vaults. Both Myia Hambrick and Kennedi Edney scored a perfect 10 from one judge, but scored a 9.95 overall. That was the turning point of the meet, and LSU continued its press on the beam.
LSU absolutely put away the competition on the beam. LSU held a narrow 148.175-148.150 lead over Nebraska at the midway point, but scored a 49.500 overall on the beam. LSU was so far into the groove, they dropped a 9.85 score from Reagan Campbell. It was an utterly dominant performance when the team needed it most.
Nebraska would hold close, keeping close to the pace with a 49.375 on the vault during the same rotation, but the two leaders had buried the field at this point. Nebraska was pulled up into LSU’s wake, putting up near season highs on every rotation.
Nebraska cruised to the second qualification spot with a 197.525. That was close enough to LSU’s 197.675 score to make the Tigers nervous, but the rest of the field was left in the dust. NC state finished third overall at 196.050, a full point and a half behind qualification.
Oregon St still had a dim chance of qualification going into the final rotation, but the Beavers absolutely came apart at the seams on the beam. While LSU put the meet away on Satan’s Apparatus, Oregon St lost any chance to come back. Four of their first five gymnasts on the rotation suffered a fall, and the Beavers ended up with a 47.500, the worst rotation by any team on the day by over a full point. Oregon St would fall from third to last.
Let their misfortune serve as a warning. That’s how quickly it can all fall apart. Oregon St had a great first rotation and looked every bit LSU’s equal on the floor exercise. But when adversity occurred, they responded in the worst possible way. While LSU responded by putting up their best scores, Oregon St responded by putting up their worst. It shows how cruel and fickly the sport can be.
In a fitting cap to the season so far, Myia Hambrick and Sarah Finnegan shared the All Around title, both scoring an identical 39.625. This team has equally relied on both of their twin pillars.
LSU advanced to Nationals, but they have a warning that the team needs to compete better, or it can all come crashing down in a single rotation. While LSU qualified with a 197.675, elsewhere, Oklahoma showed why they are the number one team in the tournament, posting yet another 198.00 overall score.
That’s the standard. That’s how you win the national title. LSU needs to emulate Nebraska and raise their game to meet that of a superior opponent. Oklahoma need not be a scary monster, but an inspiration, and a standard to attain.