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LSU vs Kentucky Meet Preview

LSU opens SEC play with a team that’s given them trouble

Can they break the curse?

#8 LSU is back to Friday nights for the rest of the regular season and will be doing so at home. Last week, LSU secured two wins and a loss in the second session of the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad in West Valley City, Utah, to move to 3-1 on the season. Tonight, they open up their SEC slate against #6 Kentucky at 8:00 p.m. on SEC Network with John Roethlisberger and first-time NCAA broadcaster Aly Raisman on the call. For those going to the meet, doors open at 6:30 p.m. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free t-shirt created by Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital patients. Introductions will begin at 7:52 p.m. and the first vault be at 8:05 p.m., so you’ll have a little more time than announced to get to your seat. All rankings are as of Week 2 according to Road to Nationals.

Match-up history for LSU and Kentucky

LSU is 85-10 against Kentucky in all competitions and is 24-2 at home, with the Wildcats’ only wins coming in 1996 and the infamous 2022 Beam Cap meet. The last time the two teams met on the same floor was at the evening session of the 2023 SEC Championships at which LSU finished ahead of Kentucky 197.800-197.675. The last time the two teams met in the regular season was at Rupp Arena in a 197.125-196.575 Kentucky win. Kentucky’s won the last three dual meets against LSU and four of the last five. Since Jay Clark took over as sole head coach of LSU in 2021, LSU is 2-4 against Kentucky when both teams are on the same floor, and both of those wins came on neutral floors.

About #6 Kentucky

Kentucky was ranked #9 in the preseason poll after one of the best seasons in program history. They’re coming off the best season in program history, a season in which they tied their best finish at SECs, 4th, and set their highest end-of-season, 6th. They made their second trip to nationals and had their second consecutive top-10 finish after combining for one, 9th in 2019, in their first 40 NCAA seasons. They’ve gotten even better.

The Wildcats lost eight members of their 2023 roster, five graduates, two graduates who transferred elsewhere and one current junior who transferred elsewhere, for a total of 4 NQS routines. They added six freshmen, and the most notable member there is Delaynee Rodriguez since she’s done the all-around the last two meets. Kentucky also retained two key gymnasts, 6th-year senior Arianna Patterson, tied for the top vault returner, and SEC Co-Gymnast of the Week Raena Worley, the other top vault returner and top returner on floor and bars. Worley is an absolute beast of an all-arounder, so the fight between her and Haleigh Bryant for the individual AA title should be a fun b-story.

Kentucky is 3-1 on the season and is 1-0 in the SEC after last Friday’s 197.475-197.025 win at Auburn. They scored a 49.500 on floor and a 49.425 on beam, so don’t think any LSU lead is safe after two rotations. The Wildcats rank 4th on vault [49.325], tied for 12th with Auburn and UCLA on bars [49.263], 6th on beam [49.263] and tied for 20th with Clemson and Towson on floor [49.275]. They’ve only had two meets, so it’s hard to note a clear weakness. One big thing to note about Kentucky is their consistency. They’ve had 73 consecutive rotations of at least 49, with their last sub-49 rotation being their penultimate rotation, beam, at the 2022 SEC Championships.

2023 SEC Coach of the Year Tim Garrison is in his 13th season at the helm. He is assisted by associate head coach and beam coach Rachel Garrison in her 14th (?, Kentucky has not updated her bio in two years) season and assistant coach and tumbling coach, a combination vault and floor coach that doesn’t work with choreography, Chad Wiest in his third season.

About LSU

LSU comes in ranked 5th on vault [49.300], 5th on bars [49.513], 35th on beam [48.725] and 2nd on floor [49.525]. There’s been no word on Chase Brock’s availability for this meet, but she’s appeared in videos doing her Yurchenko 1.5 vault. She landed it and couldn’t keep her left foot on the mat, though. Konnor McClain told assistant coach Courtney McCool Griffeth that “floor’s next,” so there is a chance she could appear in that part of the lineup. Other changes are possible, so we’ll have to wait and see.

LSU has had to count two misses on beam in the first two meets, and that’s kept them from scoring in the mid-197s. If they want to start SEC play with a win, they’ll need to hit there. Let me rephrase, they’ll need to hit beam metaphorically, not physically like Kentucky did back in 2022.