LSU’s last event in Friday night’s NCAA national gymnastics semifinals session II proved to be the third ranked Tigers undoing at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
Oklahoma led LSU 148.5625 to 148.3875 heading into the final rotation, but LSU’s 49.1750 on the balance beam dropped the third-ranked Tigers to fourth as the Sooners (198.0875) and Utah (197.6000) advanced to Saturday night’s finals along semifinals session 1 winner Michigan and runner-up Florida. SEC champion Alabama (197.5750) finished in third in the semifinals session II and LSU fell to fourth (197.5625).
“That was a hard one to take,” LSU head coach Jay Clark said. “It is obviously really disappointing and the girls are hurting. We are all hurting. It will sting for a long time, but the future of this program is so bright and we will use it as fuel to get better. This was a great team that did some special things. I would not want to be with anyone else on that floor tonight.”
Haleigh Bryant became the second freshman in LSU history to win an NCAA title when she nailed her front handspring-front pike half in the anchor spot of the vault to score a 9.975. Bryant’s NCAA vault title marked the seventh in LSU history, all coming under assistant coach Bob Moore.
Bryant led the squad in the all-around with a 39.625 and Kiya Johnson followed with a 39.600.
LSU entered the semis ranked No. 7 nationally in the balance beam. But only one Tiger – last-minute sub Bryant — delivered 9.90 or above score with her 9.9250 performance.
The Tigers led through the first two rotations, scoring 49.5000 in the floor exercise and 49.5125 in the vault, anchored by sophomore Kiya Johnson’s 9.9500 and Bryant’s 9.9750, which gave the freshman the NCAA vault title.
But LSU started a downward spiral in the uneven bars, posting just a 49.3750 when senior anchor Sami Durante lost her grip and took a hard fall. She got off the mat and finished the routine but the damage had been done. After averaging 9.900 in the bars this season, she scored a 9.2500.
In the beam, three of six Tigers scored under their season averages with sophomore Alyona Shchennikova posting her season-low of 9.4375.