A month into the season, but three weeks into its last competition, LSU’s gymnastics team had to shake off the rust as they tried to beat Georgia in Athens, Georgia, for the third straight time.
The result was an unspectacular but solid display as the No. 6-ranked Tigers avoided major errors that plagued the GymDogs for a comfortable 196.850-196.150 win at Stegeman Coliseum in their season opener. Southeastern Conference.
LSU improved to 2-0 overall. Georgia fell to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC.
“Even under the best of circumstances, first encounters on the road can be tricky,” LSU coach Jay Clark said. “Considering the fact that we hadn’t competed for three weeks, we did well. It wasn’t a terrible score, but we missed an opportunity to put some distance between us and them early on.
“But we have done enough. I am proud of the children.
The Tigers didn’t have to count a pinfall and only had two scores below 9.80 overall. Georgia, which was plagued with four falls on the beam a week earlier against Florida, suffered two falls on the beam and a third on the floor when senior Rachel Lukacs injured her knee and had to be carried away .
“You want to do better,” Clark said, “but we got a win in the SEC. We just have to identify areas where we need to do better.
The game was the Tigers’ first since Jan. 7, a 196.950-186.550 home win over Centenary. LSU’s team has had COVID-19 issues, postponing its January 14 meeting in Missouri, while COVID issues for Arkansas have postponed a meeting with LSU scheduled for January 21. The fixtures will be combined into a triple fixture with all three teams on February 20. in Missouri, a decision by the SEC that will end up costing LSU a home meeting.
The Tigers’ best event was their debut, posting a 49.350 on uneven bars. Kiya Johnson, Kai Rivers and Haleigh Bryant shared top honors in the event with identical scores of 9.90.
Georgia stayed close for two rotations, trailing only LSU 98.500-98.450 after the GymDogs earned a 9.95 on vault from Rachel Baumann, the best score of the night in any event. But the Bulldogs fell once again on beam, having to count one of two falls with a 9.25 from Soraya Hawthorne. LSU on the floor might have to score a 9.20 from sophomore Elana Arenas, who didn’t complete her final pass and landed her head on the mat (Clark said she was fine). But the Tigers were bailed out by a 9.90 clutch from junior Alyona Shchennikova in the anchor position.
LSU gymnastics coach Jay Clark said he went to his team to try to decide whether to accept a transfer from Alexis Jeffrey, a gymnast who…
Shchennikova was the only gymnast to compete in all four events, winning the all-around title with a 38.975.
“Alyona on the vault in the past may have been a problem,” Clark said of her 9.575 score in that event when she evaded the landing. “But then she got that 9.90 on the floor when we really needed it.”
Fifth-year senior Christina Desiderio started on beam for LSU with a 9.90, helping the Tigers get a winning hand early in the final rotation. Johnson also had a 9.90 to finish just behind Baumann’s 9.925 as LSU rode home to victory. Rookie Aleah Finnegan also posted a 9.875 in his first collegiate routine.
“Desiderio is amazing setting the table,” Clark said. “I can’t say enough about her consistency in this event, the way she sets the tone and calms everyone down.
“Aleah did fantastic. Good start. Great way to get your feet wet. In the weeks to come, you will see her do more.
The encounter was a homecoming for Clark, Sami Durante and fifth-year senior Arenas. Clark went to Georgia and coached there for over 20 years before going to LSU. Durante’s mother, Dana, was also Georgia’s coach, and Arenas’ mother, Kim Arnold Arenas, was a Georgian gymnastics legend who won back-to-back NCAA all-around titles.
LSU returns to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center next Saturday to host Auburn. The first vault is set for 3 p.m. on ESPNU.
1. #6 LSU 196.850 (Vault — 49.150, Bars — 49.350, Beam — 49.250, Floor — 49.100)
2. #36 Georgia 196.150 (Vault — 49.325, Bars — 49.125, Beam — 48.575, Floor — 49.075)
Individual (includes first place and all LSU competitors)
All around – 1. Alyona Shchennikova 38.975.
To jump – 1. Rachel Baumann, Georgia, 9.95; T3. Kiya Johnson, LSU, 9.875; T5. Kai Rivers, KJ Johnson, Haleigh Bryant, LSU, 9.85; 10. Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.725; 12. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 9,575.
Bars – T1. Kiya Johnson, Kai Rivers, Haleigh Bryant, LSU, 9.90; T7. Olivia Dunne, Sami Durante, LSU, 9.825; 10. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 9,775.
Shine – 1. Rachel Baumann, Georgia, 9.925; T2. Christina Desiderio, Kiya Johnson, LSU, 9.90; T4. Aleah Finegan, LSU, 9.875; 6. Bridget Dean, LSU, 9.80; T7. Sami Durante, LSU, 9.775; 10. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, 9.725.
Stage – T1. Alyona Shchennikova, LSU, Soraya Hawthorne, Georgia, 9.90; 3. KJ Johnson, LSU, 9.875; 5. Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.825; T6. Olivia Dunne, LSU, 9.80; 10. Christina Desiderio, LSU, 9.70; 11. Elena Arenas, LSU, 9.20.
Presence: N / A.