The roar of the Tiger faithful was deafening, as the top-ranked LSU gymnastics squad emerged victorious over No. 24 Kentucky 197.800-195.000 last Friday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers (10-3, 5-2 in SEC) had concluded the greatest regular season in program history in record-breaking fashion.
As the crowd jammed out to everything from Justin Timberlake to “Jungle Boogie” throughout the night, the LSU gymnastics team earned a record-breaking ninth consecutive meet with a 197 score or higher. The Tigers surpassed the previous mark of eight straight meets with at least a 197 team score set in 2004.
“This is my best team ever,” said coach D-D Breaux, who is in her 37th season as the Lady Tigers head coach. “It’s not only my best team in the gym, but it’s the best team out of the gym. They’re very committed and very close.”
The Lady Tigers will compete as the second seed in Session Two of the Southeastern Conference Gymnastics Championship this weekend in Birmingham, Ala.
“I told the kids this week when I felt we were slacking a little bit, ‘I bet Florida’s not slacking, and I bet Alabama’s working harder than we’re working today!’ and they rally to that,” Breaux said. “They really want to be a hard working team, and they want to get better each week. I think that’s truly what makes this team unique.”
“I think this was the perfect meet to be going into SEC’s with,” junior all-arounder Jessie Jordan said. “We weren’t perfect tonight, and I think we can still improve. I think it’s setting us up for a great opportunity at SEC’s.”
“We just went all out for everything and didn’t worry about much and just let it happen,” junior all-arounder Rheagan Courville added.
Courville won her seventh all-around title of the season against the Wildcats with a 39.625. Courville also tied for the vault title with a 9.925 and matched a career-high 9.95 to claim the bars title.
If you’ve never attended a LSU gymnastics meet, it’s about as high-energy of an event that LSU athletics has to offer; a frenzied sensory overload, combining blaring – but well-chosen – house music, shrieking pre-teen girls and a never-ending stream of marketing promotions.
The audience is 80-to-90 percent female, ranging from little girls to grandmothers. Whenever the Tiger gymnasts land a backflip or nail a floor routine, the screams of hundreds of pre-teen girls reverberates throughout the Deaf Dome louder than a crowd at a Miley Cyrus concert.
Serving as a major catalyst to the Tigers’ success and fans’ entertainment is junior all-arounder Lloimincia Hall.
The Dallas native put the exclamation point on LSU’s regular season finale by capturing her fifth floor title of the season in dominating fashion, scoring a 9.925 in the anchor spot.
Unlike Courville’s mesmerizing floor routine that lulls the audience into a state of hazy purple and gold tranquility before exploding into her grand finale, Hall’s floor routine starts out with a bang and is drenched in swagger. Strutting across the floor of the PMAC to the tunes of Tye Tribbett, Frankie Beverly and Earth Wind & Fire, Hall exudes a confidence from above the clouds.
“The confidence definitely comes from Christ,” Hall said. “One thing I’m strictly all about it having faith. Some people even say ‘flipping for faith.’ That was something that my parents, living in a pastor’s home, instilled in me – don’t try to overanalyze anything. Leave it God and go out there and have fun because it’s a blessing just to be here.”
Both Hall’s faith and flips have the Tigers in a prime position to win the SEC Gymnastics Championships this weekend.
“This is where we wanted to be,” Breaux explained. “We’ve tried not to look beyond the meet at hand, and this team has done a remarkable job. SEC’s is where we need to be our very, very best, and I think this will set us up for a good week of training.”
“There’s still a lot to accomplish, and a lot that this team is capable of doing,” senior all-arounder Kaleigh Dickson said. “We still have regionals here [the PMAC], and we want to go to nationals and win it all.”
“We need to stay relaxed, enjoy each other, and enjoy the experience and treat it like any other meet,” Hall said. “We believe that we can actually get a national championship now, and we’re just trying to continue to stay in the moment and not get content or complacent with what we’re doing right now.”
But Breaux has known for some time that her team would be special this season.
“We knew when the season ended last year, with how they trained and how they prepared,” Breaux said. “There are a lot of teams that may have more talent than us, but this team is very coachable.”
When asked about the idea of winning a national championship, Hall said, “I think it would be emotional. It would be a journey, and it would be amazing to make history for this school.”
“I believe in this team, and I think as we move forward and prepare for SEC’s, it’s got to be business as usual, and we’ve got to stay in the process,” Breaux said. “To use one of Les Miles’ words that people made fun of, but I really understand now, this team has ‘the want.’”