LSU looks to rebound from a loss and set up a strong first NQS.
The #9 Tigers move into the next part of the season tonight. Last week, the Tigers fell 197.475-197.250 to then-#23 Arkansas (now #18) at a sold-out Barnhill Arena. This was the first time the Tigers got a 197+ on the road this season and while it wasn’t the best, it was more of an overrotation than an underrotation (it’s better to do more than do less). Now they face the #17 Georgia GymDogs on Alumni Night. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., alumni recognition is for 7:47 and first vault is for 8:05. The meet will be televised on SEC Network.
LSU vs Georgia history:
LSU is 41-71-2 in all competitions against UGA and 10-12-1 at home. The last time these two teams met on the same floor was in 2022 when LSU beat the Dawgs 196.850-196.100 in Stegemen Coliseum. LSU is on a 17-meet win streak over Georgia (including when Georgia was in a different session at SECs) that began at the 2016 SEC Championship meet. LSU’s won the last five home meets against Georgia. The last time Georgia won in the PMAC was in 2011 with a team led by current LSU head coach Jay Clark.
It’s February, preseason rankings don’t really mean much anymore. Georgia’s coming off the worst season in program history in which they finished 8th at SECs and 30th nationally (second worst of any team to fail to qualify for Regional Finals). It was a season of falls, injuries and a feeling that things were off. They had decent talent, but it just never materialized when it mattered most.
The GymDogs lost seven seniors from last year’s team, notably vault/beam/floor specialists Rachel Baumann (transferred to Florida) and Mikayla Magee and vault/bars/floor specialist Megan Roberts. They also lost current junior Victoria Nguyen (consistently on bars and beam) when she transferred to Florida. Georgia was ready for this as they brought in eight freshmen, the most notable of which are all-arounder Naya Howard and bars/beam specialist JaFree Scott. Georgia also brought in a graduate transfer who might be very familiar to LSU fans. Hopefully those in attendance will tip their caps to graduate transfer Josie Angeny. An injury has limited her to bars in the most recent meets, but she has a new beam dismount if that’s of any concern to anyone. Also, just to address this now, Katie Finnegan is not related to Aleah or Sarah, she’s from New York.
Georgia comes in 5-4 overall and 1-2 in the SEC. They’re coming off a 197.900-196.850 loss at Florida. They rank 30th on vault (48.935), 10th on bars (49.270), t-17th on beam (49.100) and 22nd on floor (49.210). Georgia’s in a rebuilding year, and their depth hasn’t come into their own yet.
Courtney Kupets Carter a.k.a. CKC is in her 6th season as head coach, and she’s definitely experienced the opposite of the success she had in her college competition career. She recently signed a three-year contract extension when her existing contract expired after the season, but she didn’t earn a raise. She also has a new support staff. Ryan Roberts is the bars coach and left Alabama after serving as one of the top assistants in the country. Sam Welbourn is the vault coach, though he is currently in an interim role (hired from Georgia Elite). CKC coaches beam (the shakiest event last year) and Mollie Korth is the volunteer assistant coach and works with floor. UGA isn’t much right now, but they bring in the top recruit next season (a former Alabama commit who flipped when Roberts left).
LSU comes into this meet ranked 4th on vault (49.360), 6th on bars (49.330), t-17th on beam (49.100) and 16th on floor (49.250).
Head coach Jay Clark said that Bryce Wilson is full-go on beam, but did not confirm whether she’d compete tonight. He confirmed that Livvy Dunne is out at least another two weeks after experiencing more discomfort Saturday, though she posted a video of her dismounting several days ago. Haleigh Bryant, Aleah Finnegan and Alyona Shchennikova are set to do all-around for the third consecutive meet.
The expected lineup for vault is the same as last week’s actual order: Elena Arenas (9.95 SV), Alyona, Aleah, Chase Brock, KJ Johnson (9.95 SV), Haleigh with Alexis Jeffrey listed as an alternate. For bars, the expected lineup is Alexis, Elena, Tori Tatum, Aleah, Alyona, Haleigh with Ashley Cowan listed as an alternate. For beam, the expected lineup is Kai Rivers, Alyona, Sierra Ballard, Elena, Haleigh, Aleah with KJ listed as an alternate. For floor, the expected lineup is Sierra, Alyona, Chase, KJ, Aleah, Haleigh with Elena listed as an alternate.
Tonight is LSU’s chance to get a good starting NQS, the score used to qualify for the NCAA tournament and seed the top 16. A team must have six scores and three road scores to have an NQS. To calculate a team’s NQS, take their top three road scores and top three other scores from anywhere else (including the road), exclude the highest score and divide the remaining scores by five. If LSU scores 197.450 or higher tonight, their opening NQS will be 197.040, the same as their current average.
The season is reaching its midpoint, and LSU needs to have a strong result to set a good pace line for the rest of the climb.