It started ugly. LSU’s very first gymnast on the very first rotation, Christina Desiderio, fell off the beam. Bridget Dean helped pick her up from the next slot, but she only scored a 9.775. Five minutes into the meet, LSU was already in crisis.
The Tigers would rally for the rest of the rotation, but those big scores were not coming. It wasn’t until Sarah Finnegan, the team’s steady senior leader, showed up in the anchor spot and slammed down a confident 9.9375 for the team’s first 9.90+ score of the day. More importantly, LSU was able to salvage that early struggle and score a 49.1875. LSU was in last place after one rotation, but the good news was that no one scored higher than Utah’s 49.3125. LSU stumbled, but nobody put the team away.
It was a crucial mistake.
From that point on, this was LSU’s meet. LSU went from last to first, and by the last rotation, LSU somehow had overcome it’s early stumble to take the overall lead. LSU put up the biggest team score on the next two rotations, and had the advantage of going to the bars to close out the meet.
Then, somehow again, LSU faced adversity. DD Breaux tossed aside the concept of learning from adversity in her post meet comments, but LSU had to rally on the final rotation just like they had to rally for the whole meet.
Sami Durante and Bailey Ferrer didn’t have disasters, but the both scored below a 9.8 to start the final rotation. LSU quickly had squandered that slight lead, as you could see UCLA turning out huge floor performance after performance.
Breaux said, “We always build to the end of the lineup,” and that is exactly what happened here. The team had no panic, as everyone knew those big scores were coming up. And come they did.
Ruby Harrold scored the first 9.90 of the rotation, followed up by a huge performance from Kennedi Edney. By the time Sarah Finnegan took the mat, LSU already knew the meet was in the bag, but it didn’t stop her from closing things out with another huge score.
UCLA showed everybody up with its final rotation on the floor, a massive event which had the entire arena pumped. UCLA might be the enemy on the floor, but let’s be honest, the Bruins are super fun on the floor.
UCLA’s coach Valorie Kondos Field admitted she didn’t always care about winning. “Sports is entertainment” she remarked. Well, she cares about winning now because, “Winning is fun.” UCLA had fun with great performance after performance on the floor, running away with first place with a 49.6125 score on the final rotation and a final score of 197.6750.
This is the only time that second place is just as good as first place. LSU pulled away from Michigan in the end, extending a 0.0625 lead to a 197.5125-197.200 final margin.
As DD told the reporters after the meet, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” LSU finished great. UCLA finished even better. Both are advancing to Saturday’s finals.
Saturday’s Championship round will air live on ESPNU at 6pm CT on Saturday.