For the fourth consecutive season, the Gators will face LSU in what is the top-ranked meet in the nation in NCAA women’s gymnastics! Tonight, the Tigers come to Gainesville the challengers, having had a bit of a rocky start to their season as COVID protocols forced them to cancel two of their first four planned meets, but don’t be fooled. This SEC matchup is always a dramatic one, with three of the last four matchups being decided by 0.125 or less. LSU always brings its A-game to this meet, and despite Florida’s storied rivalry with Georgia, most Gator gymnasts consider this Tiger matchup a rivalry meet just as much.
The O-Dome is no walk in the park to compete in, though, and the Tigers could be haunted by their last time out – 2020’s matchup saw now-super senior Sarah Edwards incur a season-ending injury on floor – but they could also pull off an upset. In 2018, despite being the first-ever women’s gymnastics sellout for the O-Dome, the meet between these two teams went to LSU by just over a tenth due to some missteps on floor by the Gators.
That was the last time LSU beat Florida in regular season competition, and of those competing at the meet tonight, only super seniors were on the team at the time. Florida has two, Megan Skaggs and Alyssa Baumann, to remind the Gators that they can’t get complacent, because they’ve had it happen to them. On the other hand, LSU has a nation-high five – Reagan Campbell, Bridget Dean, Christina Desiderio, Sami Durante, and Edwards – to pump the Tigers up and remind them it can be done. Both teams have brought in some massive recruiting classes since then, with one of the two teams having the most successful freshman recruit in each class: Trinity Thomas in 2019, Kiya Johnson in 2020, and Haleigh Bryant in 2021. 2022’s most successful recruit remains to be seen, but regardless of who you consider the front-runner for that honor to be, the point remains: LSU and Florida will battle it out until the bitter end tonight. Of that, there can be no question.
It all starts at 6pm ET on SEC Network or in Gainesville at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, but if you didn’t get tickets, don’t go – it’s already sold out! Instead, follow along with us here as we bring you the action moment by moment.
Team photographer Erin Long is at warmups and shared some footage… might we see Riley McCusker on beam tonight?
Y’all, I just realized – this is Florida’s THIRD consecutive sold out meet this season!
LSU lineups for the night…
6:02pm: Here we go!!
Skaggs, VT: Yurchenko full, nice and floaty, little shuffle of the feet. Good body line through the vault, just that landing really.
Johnson, UB: Maloney to bail, solid handstand there. Maybe shy on one of those high bar handstands? DLO dismount, little bounce back.
6:04pm: Schoenherr, VT: Yurchenko 1.5, some soft knees toward the end, little hop forward. Another solid outing for her, I think we can safely say she’s got that vault back.
Rivers, UB: Leg sep on the Maloney, and a little one again as she snaps into the handstand on the bail. Tkachev is nice. DLO dismount stuck! That’s a nice exclamation point to put on the routine.
6:06pm: Wong, VT: Podkopayeva, probably the cleanest pike shape we’ve seen from her thus far! Good amplitude, a little messy on takeoff still but I can see the improvement for sure.
Dunne, UB: First handstand definitely shy. Tkachev to immediate pak salto, that’s lovely. Good final handstand, maybe a little shy? Right on the line for me. DLO dismount stuck!
6:08pm: Reed, VT: Y1.5, little hop forward. Pretty clean in the air, suuper long distance, a little flatter though in terms of height than usual.
Bryant, UB: Great first handstands. Jaeger turned over a little slowly? Bail looked good. Solid last handstand. Double front half out stuck cold!
6:10pm: Thomas, VT: Y1.5, STUCK COLD! That was even cleaner than the 10 she got a few weeks ago, holy cow.
Shchennikova, UB: Tkachev to pak looked mostly clean to me. Handstand looked maybe a little shy to me. DLO is so whippy, I feel like she never properly hits a layout position, but she stuck it.
6:12pm: Blakely, VT: Y1.5, opened a little too early and had to stutter step and lunge backward, yikes.
Durante, UB: Opening Jaeger is good. Big leg separation on her pak salto, that’s unfortunate. Full in dismount is stuck! Not her best, but we’ll see how the scores shake out.
AFTER ONE: UF 49.55, LSU 49.425
6:19pm: Rivers, VT: Yfull, clean in the air, not as big as Skaggs’s was, little hop on the landing.
Blakely, UB: Big breath to calm the nerves. Good first handstand, Maloney looks a little off, but she still goes for the pak… and she has to come down. Oof. She’s in her head tonight, I wonder if Jenny will want to change lineups after this. Double front dismount, little step forward.
6:21pm: Edwards, VT: Y1.5, gorgeous in the air, little shuffle back. Just gorgeous, I love her gymnastics.
Skaggs, UB: Great first handstand. Tkachev to pak salto is super clean. Last handstand looks like it was a little muscled but I don’t think it was shy. DLO had a weird leg separation?? Bizarre, but she sticks with a little lean to the side.
6:24pm: Arenas, VT: Yfull, good dynamics, nice and clean in the air. Little shuffle back.
McCusker, UB: Maloney to pak is gorgeous. Short on the first low bar handstand, and another one later… what’s going on with these bars? van leeuwen, and is able to get back with it. Blind change, good handstand, back to regular grip, double tuck, deep knee bend but it’s stuck.
6:26pm: KJ Johnson, VT: Yfull and STICKS, wow!
Schoenherr, UB: Jaeger is gorgeous as usual. Bail is dead on, nice. Final handstand maybe a little shy? Double front half out STUCK COLD YES MA’AM. A huge routine for her!
6:28pm: Kiya Johnson, VT: Y double full, a little adjustment on the landing and a little off to the side, but wow that’s a big vault.
Thomas, UB: Making this look so easy. Maloney to pak are both great, van Leeuwen is excellent. DLO is stuck cold! What a queen.
6:30pm: Bryant, VT: Front handspring pike half, little step back with one foot. ENORMOUS height on that, such an open position in the air, just gorgeous.
Wong, UB: Great opening handstand. Maloney great, pak has a little leg separation in there. van leeuwen, fine. DLO, steps back a little quick for my liking, I don’t give that the stick.
AFTER TWO: UF 99.0, LSU 98.9
LSU gains back a little ground after some bars flubs from the Gators. Hopefully, Florida can put its nerves behind them as it goes to beam.
6:38pm: Rotation 3!
Skaggs, BB: Wolf turn to start, good. Switch to split, lovely. Back handspring layout-stepout (bhs loso), super steady. Front aerial, not a hair out of place. Cat leap switch side, dead on. Side aerial back full, little slide back. A great start, hopefully the rest of the lineup can take heart in that and take a deep breath.
6:40pm: Desiderio, FX: Double layout (DLO) to open, not as high as some of the Gators but decent position in the air. 1.5 to front lay, good. Solid split positions on her dance series. Double tuck to finish, she’s somehow tumbling with more power now than she was a few seasons ago? Great leadoff for LSU.
6:42pm: Blakely, BB: Glad she’s getting a chance to redeem herself out here. Front to back series is solid. Switch leap, switch half, great amplitude. Side somi, big wobbles, but she stays on the beam. Side aerial back full, little shuffle it looked like.
6:44pm: Shchennikova, FX: Front double full directly to arabesque, masking some of the lack of control. 1.5 to front full, big step forward but only one it looked like. Not sure if I buy the ring position in her dance series, but the camera angle didn’t let me see it very well. Rudi to loso to close, great control on that one.
6:46pm: Baumann, BB: Bhs loso, locks it down. Switch to split, great through those. Front aerial to beat jump, good connection. Full turn is clean. Side aerial, solid. Roundoff 1.5 stuck! The ice queen comes in clutch.
6:48pm: KJ Johnson, FX: Big full in to start, nice open position in the air, legs clean. 1.5 to front lay, good control in there. Dance series is nice and crisp, appreciate that. Double back to finish, little adjustment of the front foot on the landing.
6:50pm: Wong, BB: Lovely dance series to open with that split leap combination. Bhs loso is steady. Switch ring? That’s new. Front aerial, super floaty. Roundoff double full stuck! Greatly appreciate them changing her composition.
6:52pm: Finnegan, FX: Double arabian to stag to start, so clean. A little late on the second element of her dance series, I wonder if that will be a problem? 2.5 to front lay, reeeeally had to pull it around but she did kept it on her feet. That will get better with time for sure, this is only her second week in the lineup.
6:54pm: Thomas, BB: Switch leap mount, lovely. Dance series to open, extension and toe point just excellent. Bhs loso, so steady. Front aerial to beat to korbut, comes down awkwardly and has to regrip the beam… that’s a weird one, but should be a much smaller deduction than it could have been. Sticks her dismount!
6:56pm: Bryant, FX: Double front to open, super high and clean! Front lay to Rudi, a little messy in the legs on the Rudi there. Front double full to finish, deep squat and another step forward. She’s been dealing with plantar fasciitis in her foot, so hopefully this didn’t aggravate that.
6:58pm: Clapper, BB: Bhs loso loso, so patient with it. Full turn is nice and patient. Switch to split, clean, a little feet maybe. Side aerial to back full stuck!
7:00pm: Kiya Johnson, FX: Full in, great dynamics and clean in the air. 1.5 to punch front for her combo pass, normally does a layout, that may affect her start value. Dance series looked fine. Double pike to finish, well controlled lunge out of it. We’ll see how these scores shake out…
AFTER THREE: IT’S A TIE AT 148.35
Holy crap, a TIE before the final rotation??? I guess I did promise y’all some drama!
Hearing Bryant will be out of beam… ouch.
7:07pm: Desiderio, BB: Switch to switch half, solid. Bhs loso, super steady. Front aerial, lovely. Cat leap gainer full stuck! A solid start for LSU. Can Florida follow up?
7:09pm: Skaggs, FX: Double wolf to start, cleanly rotated. Rudi to double stag, little bit of travel on that jump. No trouble with her dance series this week! The precision in this dance, y’all!! 1.5 to front lay, single step forward right to the line. She does it again! What a start for the Gators!
7:11pm: Durante, BB: full turn to start is clean. Front aerial AND SHE’S OFF! The door is wide open for Florida! Repeats the front aerial to get credit for her series, to bhs bhs, it’s fine the second time. Dance series is lovely. Side aerial to back full is stuck, but the damage is done.
7:13pm: Baumann, FX: Bringing the drama to an already dramatic meet, oh boy. 1.5 to front full, great control. Turn series, gorgeous, oh and she misses her foot as she tries to go into her dance series! Oh, but she reattempts, and I think that’s what she intended? I don’t know the code well enough to know. Double pike to finish is great. Whew, what a veteran!
7:15pm: Dean, BB: Acro series is solid. Front aerial to beat, very nice. Side aerial to back full is stuck! A good reset for the Tigers.
7:17pm: Wong, FX: Triple full, BEAUTIFUL. Whip half front full to stag, I don’t think that’s her usual combo pass, but I think she’s fine in terms of start value. Double pike to finish, a big lunge back and the front foot comes up, that’ll be a deduction, but she handled the nerves well.
7:19pm: Finnegan, BB: Bhs loso loso, takes it alllll the way to the end of the beam but doesn’t flinch for a second. Switch to split, maybe a small check? Bhs 1.5 twist dismount, hop forward. Another hit – can they make it all the way to drop Durante’s score?
7:21pm: Reed, FX: DLO, one of her best landings, no movement of the front foot. Front lay to Rudi, also really well controlled! Dance series looked clean and precisely rotated. Double pike to close is also super well controlled – dare I say this was better than her first 10 too????
7:23pm: Rivers, BB: Bhs loso, does well to keep it under control while the O-Dome goes bonkers for a 10 for Reed!!! Switch half is maybe a little shy? Switch to straddle 1/4, fine. Roundoff double full stuck! What a pro!
7:24pm: Thomas, FX: DLO, EXPLODES off of the floor and just glues her foot to the floor. Front full to front lay, well controlled there. Dance series is great, big amplitude and well rotated. Double pike, oooooh she opened a little early and took a step forward, that might preclude her from the 10! Still going to be a huge score.
7:26pm: Kiya Johnson, BB: Full turn to open, solid. Bhs loso, super aggressive with it, doesn’t give herself a second to think about it. Switch to split, solid. Front toss is steady. Bhs 1.5 twist dismount is stuck!
7:28pm: Blakely, FX: Let’s hope she can hit this. Double arabian to open, NAILS it and you can see her expression instantly change – the nerves are gone and now she can just have fun. Dance series is solid. Double tuck, locks that landing down and Burde in the background goes nuts for her. 1.5 to front lay to finish, goes right to the line but doesn’t go out, and the whole team swarms her. So thrilled she got the chance to redeem herself – that will do wonders for her confidence (and that’s why Jenny does it).
AFTER FOUR: UF 198.15, LSU 197.825
Join me shortly on Twitter for some post-meet tidbits from the press conference! Thanks for sticking around this week and we’ll see you back here next week for Kentucky!