After what felt like the longest offseason in LSU history, the hype gives way to action.
#3 LSU opens at home after a weird departure from normalcy last season. They host the #14 Ohio State Buckeyes at 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network to open this year’s Friday Night Heights action with Bart Connor and Kathy Johnson Clarke on the call. For those going to the meet, doors open at 6:00 p.m. The first 1,500 fans will receive a cape and a light-up crown. Introductions will begin at 7:19 p.m., followed by the 2023 Final Four banner drop.
Match-up history for LSU and Ohio State:
LSU is 13-0 against Ohio State in all competitions and 4-0 in the regular season. The Tigers are 3-0 against the Buckeyes in the PMAC. The two teams’ most recent meeting was in Columbus for the 2013 Columbus Regional, a meet that LSU won overall and won against Ohio State 197.275-196.050. The two teams haven’t met in a dual meet since 2/20/2005 when then #3 LSU beat then #22 Ohio State 195.600-194.075 on the road, a meet which propelled LSU to the #1 ranking in the nation for the first time in program history.
LSU has not dropped a season opener at home since 2006 when they finished 4th at the Super Six Challenge behind #4 Alabama, #8 Nebraska and #11 Iowa State, a Cyclones team led by current Oklahoma head coach KJ Kindler, and ahead of #15 Auburn and then-Big 12 member #16 Missouri.
LSU has not faced a Big 10 opponent in a dual meet since 3/6/2015, a senior night meet against Minnesota which LSU won 198.375-195.450 to set their program record for highest team score and highest vault score, a 49.875. LSU is 147-51-2 against current members of the Big 10 all-time, including 2-0 against now-defunct Wisconsin, and 49-11-1 against current Big 10 members in the regular season, including 1-0 against now-defunct Wisconsin. LSU has lost one dual meet to a current Big 10 member, a 1982 road loss to Penn State 143.70-141.30, a meet which predated the Nittany Lions’ arrival into the Big 10 by 11 seasons.
Ohio State does not have a matchup-by-matchup record for their program like LSU does, unfortunately. The last time Ohio State faced off against an SEC team in a dual meet was in the 2022 season opener when they lost at Arkansas 195.450-195.025. The last time the Buckeyes won a season opener on the road was in 2017 when they defeated Pitt 194.375-192.800.
About Ohio State:
Ohio State is coming off their second best season since 1998, only behind their 10th place finish in 2012. The Buckeyes finished 13th last season after squeaking past Arkansas in their regional semifinal and finished .125 away from a spot in Fort Worth.
Ohio State lost nine members of their 2023 roster including one of their best bars workers and their best floor worker. They added five freshmen and picked up junior Sydney Washington from Pitt out of the transfer portal. They retained two seniors, bars beam and floor specialist Alexis Hankins and beam and floor specialist Ella Hodges. The two gymnasts to watch, as named by the Big 10, are all-arounders Tory Vetter and Payton Harris, each going into their sophomore seasons. Harris is worth keeping an eye on the most because she qualified as an all-arounder to nationals in her freshman campaign.
Last year’s team was strongest on vault and floor, but I don’t know what to expect this year. Ohio State is led by seventh-year head coach Meredith Paulicivic. She is assisted by associate head coach Lucas Wasson, responsible for vault and tumbling, in his seventh year, assistant coach Randy Monahan, responsible for bars, in his 10th season, and assistant coach Mickayla Stuckey in her first year.
The meet notes for this meet do not list a projected lineup. Instead, it lists every single possible routine by event. There are 14 vaults, 12 bars routines, 16 beam routines and 16 floor routines.
Aleah Finnegan is guaranteed to be doing beam, but she’s unlikely to do any event except for floor. She’s nursing a bit of a wrist injury, but it’s nothing too substantial. Konnor McClain is expected to be available for bars, beam and floor, and Jay said there’s a chance she competes all three tonight. Kiya Johnson is working her way back from her injury, and while she is back on all four events, it’s unlikely she competes in the all-around.
This is a deep team with a ton of talent looking to get off to a great start by putting up a solid score. Fair warning in advance: don’t expect scores as high as they were last year. The 1-second rule should bring some scores down both from people for getting to hold the finishing position and extra deductions from people having to get to the position in the first place. This is fine, just sit back and enjoy the show.