LSU's Breaux Wins 600th With Defeat of NC State
BATON ROUGE - LSU gymnastics head coach D-D Breaux clinched her 600th career victory as the eighth-ranked Tigers set a school record team score in a season opener with a 196.075-194.975 win against No. 22 North Carolina State Friday night in the Maravich Center.
The 196.075 team score beat the previous school record for a season opener, a 195.725 in the 2008 Cancun Classic.
Before a lively crowd of 3,504, the Tigers dazzled the fans with a spectacular 49.525 on floor to pull away from the Wolfpack in the final rotation. The 49.525 is tied for the eighth-highest floor score in school history as the Tigers also scored it April 2, 2002 at the NCAA Central Regional.
Led by a career-high 9.975 on floor, Rheagan Courville captured her fifth career all-around title with a 39.500, equaling her personal best. Courville also won the beam title with a 9.875 to go along with her floor and all-around titles.
Sarie Morrison finished a perfect 2-for-2, winning the vault and bars titles with a 9.90 and 9.825, respectively, in the two events she competed.
"It was such an exciting night in front of a great crowd," Breaux said. "We opened the night with some mistakes, but we kept pushing. It didn't rattle us, and we finished the meet competing like a championship team. It was a great night."
LSU (1-0) began the meet with a 49.275 on vault, the highest opening-meet score in the event since the 2007 opener when the Tigers recorded a 49.400. Kaleigh Dickson led off with a 9.825, and LSU counted 9.85's from Jessica Savona, Maliah Mathis and Courville as well as Morrison's 9.90.
LSU struggled to maintain the momentum in the second rotation, counting a fall on bars to finish with a 48.250. Morrison led the way with a 9.825, followed by a 9.80 by Courville, 9.775 by freshman Randii Wyrick, 9.725 by Lloimincia Hall and 9.125 by Jessie Jordan.
After two rotations LSU led NC State 97.525-97.375, and the Tigers tallied a 49.025 on beam to hold the advantage over the Wolfpack. Ericka Garcia led off the event with a 9.725 followed by a 9.75 from Dickson. Savona and Hall earned back-to-back 9.80's, while Courville scored a 9.875 and Jordan anchored with a 9.80.
With the team clinging to a 146.550-146.350 lead entering the final rotation, the Tigers exploded for a 49.525, including three scores above a 9.90. Courville was nearly perfect with a 9.975, Hall got the crowd on its feet with a 9.95 and Savona tallied a 9.925 in her first floor routine as a Tiger. Mathis added a solid 9.85, and Dickson opened the event with a 9.825 to get LSU started.
NC State (0-1) was led by junior Diahanna Ham who scored a 9.875 to finish second on vault, a 9.85 on floor and a 39.100 for a third-place all-around finish.
LSU returns to the Maravich Center next Friday to open Southeastern Conference competition against third-ranked Florida who was a 196.575-190.550 winner against Ball State Friday night.
The meet will begin at 7 p.m. CT, and tickets are still available at www.LSUtix.net.
Florida Wins Season Opener
The No. 3 Gator gymnastics team (1-0, 0-0 SEC) opened the 2013 season Friday with a win over Ball State (0-1, 0-0 MAC) in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 3,768. The Gators matched their third-highest season opening total, 196.575, to take the win over the Cardinals, who earned a 190.55.
It was a strong opening for the Gators, but the team showed that there will be areas to polish as the season progresses. And that is perfectly fine with Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn. Tonight was a chance to see how newcomers would perform in the collegiate arena. Only one of Florida’s freshmen competed Friday - Bridget Sloan. And it was an opportunity to see how the team reacted to a competition setting after months of pre-season training.
“I wasn’t looking at the scores. I was more concerned with how Bridget would do. I know she’s incredibly talented and she has this competitive experience, but she’s in a completely new environment,” Faehn said. “I was really pleased with how the team did and the energy that they had.”
With Sloan’s opening competitive routine, she also set another first. Thirty World Championships’ all-around crowns have been awarded since 1938. Sloan is the first World all-around titlist to compete as a collegiate. The six-time (and current) member of the U.S. Senior National Team won the 2009 World title and was the youngest member of the U.S.’s silver medal Olympic team in 2008.
She stuck her vault to earn a 9.925 and shared the evening’s event title with senior All-American Ashanée Dickerson. Even if she didn’t win, Sloan would have categorized tonight a success because of the experience of sharing the competition with the team she’s been training with since fall.
“It was a shock. I had no idea what it was going to be like on the competition floor, because when you’re in the stands it looks like ‘oh that’s so much fun’ but when you’re out there it’s a blast. I know I’ve never had that much fun at a meet. I really enjoyed every minute of it and I wished I could do it again and just have home meets all the time,” Sloan said. “Having that team behind you - it’s just awesome. It was absolutely incredible and I loved it.”
The shared vault title pushed Dickerson’s career total of vault wins to 15. Dickerson also won the evening’s all-around at 38.90. The win raised her career total of event titles to an even 60, which continues to place her fifth on Florida’s career list.
Florida’s first to claim the NCAA all-around title, Kytra Hunter, added two more event titles to her career tally with identical marks of 9.90. The score equaled her best on bars set in 2012 NCAA Championships’ semifinal competition and she used the mark to anchor Florida’s floor set for the sophomore’s eighth title on the event.
Hunter wanted to use tonight to get a feel for competition again and to get ready for Florida’s road opener at No. 8 LSU next Friday.
“My main focus was to get out there and get my nerves out. We have a road meet next week and we need a good road score,” Hunter said. “I think the lineups the coaches put out were perfect for us considering we were coming back from break and had a short amount of time to train with the team. I think we did excellent job tonight.”
A Gator who was thrilled to be in the opening meet lineup was junior All-American Mackenzie Caquatto. The opening few meets of her last two seasons saw her sitting out due to injury. Last year, she only competed on bars during the season due to a severe injury suffered in the fall of 2011. She sprained both ankles at the U.S.’s final camp as she was looking to earn her second consecutive World Championships roster spot.
Tonight, Mackenzie took the evening’s balance beam title at 9.875. It was her first appearance in UF’s beam lineup since the 2011 NCAA Championships.
“I didn’t realize it, but Macko said to me ‘you realize this is the first time in three years that I’m actually competing in the first meet,’ because the last two years she has been injured,” Faehn said. “So that was a big thing; for her to be able to compete and to compete well on bars and beam in the very first meet in the year. That was a big milestone for her and an accomplishment that she is much healthier injury wise.”
Florida will be at No. 8 LSU next Friday for the Southeastern Conference opener. Meet time is set for 8 p.m. ET in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. That meet airs tape-delayed on SUN Sports Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.