After an early season swoon, it seemed that LSU gymnastics had found it’s form again.
Sure, LSU lost to Florida, but the team posted a season-high 197.425 score in the meet, showing it could compete with the best teams in the country. And that meet launched LSU to an even better score the next week against Bama, and then a dominant win against NC State.
Things weren’t perfect, but it looked like LSU was a team that was finding its legs and rounding into form at just the right time, so it could peak for the postseason.
And then this weekend, LSU hit the iceberg.
Both Bailey Ferrer and the usually reliable Lexie Priessman fell on the bars, a rotation which LSU relies on for its big scores. Not only was the team forced to carry a fall, but no gymnast scored higher than Sarah Finnegan’s 9.875. It was an utter disaster of a first rotation, and Kentucky jumped out to a 49.200-48.575 lead.
Things would not improve. LSU didn’t have any major disasters on vault, but the team’s inability to make clean landings continued, and the highest score the team earned was a 9.85. Vault is a rotation that you have to score big on in order to compete in a big meet, and the 49.175 score LSU posted would have been okay had they knocked it out of the park on bars. But needing huge scores to catch up, it just didn’t cut it.
Kentucky, on the other hand, smelled the blood in the water and anchored by Alex Hyland’s 9.90, scored a 49.30 on the bars rotation. At the halfway point, the meet was already effectively over, as LSU trailed 98.500-97.750.
Still, this would be a chance to see how LSU dealt with adversity. Winning the meet might be a longshot, but it would be good to see the team dig down deep and rally to at least put some pressure on the Wildcats. That didn’t happen, as the floor rotation was an unmitigated disaster. Three gymnasts failed to land their routines, including McKenna Kelly, forcing LSU to carry to scores that included deductions for stepping out.
Meanwhile, Kentucky was living up to DD Breaux’s mantra and slamming the door shut with an epic 49.425 performance on beam. LSU failed to keep pace with its 48.900 on floor.
LSU didn’t just lose the meet, the Tigers barely cracked 196.000 with its final score of 196.025. The Tigers posted a lower score than Kentucky on every single apparatus. The only saving grace of the evening was Sarah Finnegan’s 9.925 on both the beam and the floor, though she still lost the all-around title to Mollie Korth 39.600 – 39.550.
So, the question is, was this simply one disastrous meet or is this a harbinger of things to come? Before the season started the question was whether LSU would make the final four at this year’s NCAA finals, and now the team might struggle to make the final four of the SEC.
The team has two SEC regular season meets left, at Arkansas and hosting Georgia. LSU has a month to find the form that has eluded them all season, as the SEC Championships are looming on March 23rd. As it stands right now, this team is not a contender for the title, which would be a shocking result for this season.
This team is too talented to be struggling this mightily. OK, that’s the bad news, let’s look at the good news.
Even with this week’s performance, LSU ranks fifth in the nation. On top of that, LSU’s season high score of 197.450 is tied for fifth in the nation, and is just 0.025 points behind Georgia. LSU is in the top ten on all four rotations, and is top four in vault and beam.
The team’s issue is not ability but consistency. This is still a young team and the early season is when you are supposed to work out the kinks on the routines. But the clock is running out.