LSU gymnastics notebook: Tigers trying to get their edge back going into meet at Kentucky

Whatever edge the LSU gymnastics team had against No. 1 Florida that carried it to a season-high score of 198.050 seemed to evaporate last week in a 197.725-197.325 loss at Alabama, especially after the Tigers got lower-than-expected scores on the uneven bars.

But LSU coach Jay Clark said he believes his team may have that edge back going into Friday’s final regular-season road meet at Kentucky (6 p.m., SEC Network).

“This one kind of made them mad a little bit,” Clark said Monday. “That may be a good thing. That made us all a little mad. We let circumstances dictate the outcome to us, at least in the middle part of the meet.”

Clark emphasized that he wasn’t blaming the loss on the judges but also said his team was impacted mentally by a string of 9.875 scores for Haleigh Bryant, Kiya Johnson and Sami Durante on routines that the Tigers could have felt should have been scored higher. LSU’s top bars score was a 9.90 from Alyona Shchennikova, while the Tigers’ Olivia Dunne got a 9.85 and Bridget Dean a 9.80. Alabama’s Luisa Blanco won the event with a 9.95.

“We’ve got to be more mature,” Clark said. “We can’t get distracted by things we can’t control. We got a lot of 9.875s on bars for what I thought was one of, if not our best, performance one through six all year.”

No. 6 Alabama gymnastics team piles up team's best score of 197.725 to take down No. 2 LSU

After a gut-wrenching loss to top-ranked Florida last week, the LSU gymnastics team was looking to get back on track Friday night against an o…

LSU trailed Alabama only 98.775-98.700 after two rotations, but Clark felt the Tigers started pressing on floor and balance beam in their final two rotations.

“In this particular case (the scores) crept into our minds,” he said. “We got through the second event and felt we did a great job to that point and realized we’ve got to do something more because it isn’t working. We were trying to be superhuman. If we stayed the course, we would have won that meet despite anything not in our control.”

Durante said despite back-to-back losses (LSU fell 198.150-198.050 to Florida), the Tigers are still in a good place mentally going into their final two regular-season meets. LSU closes at home next Friday against Missouri.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we also learned a lot,” the senior gymnast said. “You can always find the good and the bad in every meet. It’s not the end of the road. There are still places we could improve.”

Holding at No. 2

Despite the loss, LSU (4-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) held firm at No. 2 behind Florida in this week’s national rankings, matching its season average of 197.325 against Alabama.

Though LSU has lost two matches in a row, virtually eliminating the Tigers’ chances of winning the SEC regular-season title, LSU is still on pace to be the No. 2 seed in the SEC championships in March and a No. 1 seed in one of the four NCAA regionals because of its season average.

As an example of how rankings work in gymnastics, Alabama (5-1, 4-1 SEC) dropped one spot to No. 7 because of how well other teams around the country performed last week.

Next week, National Qualifying Scores (NQS) will kick in. Under rules adopted for this season, each team will only average its top two home and top two road scores and discard the rest. If NQS was in effect this week, LSU’s season average would rise to 197.531.

Kiya, Reagan watch

Clark said LSU will likely hold sophomore All-American Kiya Johnson out of floor for another week as the Tigers try to give her Achilles’ tendon injury more time to heal.

Meanwhile senior Reagan Campbell, who missed the Alabama meet with a hip pointer, likely will be back on floor and balance beam, Clark said.

“Reagan looks good,” he said. “As of today she could go this week on both events. Her hip feels a lot better. We just shut her down and didn’t do a thing with her last week.

“I think Kiya wants to do floor this week. But unless we get into a tough situation, I’m going to stick to my guns and Missouri is the first time you’ll see her on floor. Then we’ll have a bye week (before SECs), and that’ll give us some time to formulate what we want to do.”

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