The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2018 Outlook – LSU Tigers

 

LSU ROSTER 2018
Seniors
Myia
Hambrick
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Ranked 8th nationally in AA in 2017
  • Top-3 for LSU on each event
  • Can VT a 10.0-start Y1.5
  • Will contribute AA in 2018
Lauren Li
BB
  • Competed 5 BB routines in 2017 for 9.755 avg
Erin
Macadaeg
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Evergreen BB leadoff for 9.900 RQS in 2017
  • Can provide VT as needed
  • Competed FX once in 2016 for 9.950
Kylie Moran
  • Has not competed a routine in first three years
Juniors
Julianna
Cannamela
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed 7 VTs in 2017 for 9.829 RQS
  • Can provide backup routines on all four pieces as needed
Sarah Finnegan
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Added AA in 2017, competing all four events in 7 meets
  • Team’s top BB routine (9.945)
McKenna
Kelley
  • Will miss 2018 season with torn Achilles
Lexie
Priessman
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Anchored UB in 2017 for 9.925 RQS
  • CGA Legs limit contributions on other events
  • Will contribute VT, FX when able
Sophomores
Kennedi
Edney
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Likely AA in 2018
  • Stars on VT with Y1.5 for 9.910 RQS
  • RQS of at least 9.870 on all events
Ruby Harrold
VT
UB
FX
  • Competed regular VT, UB in 2017
  • Performs Y1.5 on VT
  • Looking to add FX for 2018
Ashlyn Kirby VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed 1 FX for 9.625 in 2017
Freshmen
Reagan Campbell
UB
BB
  • Texas Dreams
  • 5th AA at 2016 JO Nationals, Senior D
Bridget Dean
BB
FX
  • Orlando Metro
  • 8th AA at 2015 JO Nationals, Senior A
Christina Desiderio
VT
BB
FX
  • Expected to contribute on at least two pieces right away
  • Parkettes
  • 12th at 2016 Olympic Trials
Sami Durante
UB
BB
  • Georgia Elite
  • 6th UB at 2017 JO Nationals, Senior E
  • Expected to contribute on UB
Sarah Edwards
VT
  • Will contribute VT with Y1.5
  • Lanier’s
Olivia Gunter
  • North Shore
  • 2017 Louisiana State FX champ
Gracen Standley
UB
  • Cincinnati
  • 2017 Ohio state UB champ, Senior B

Recent History
2017 – 2nd
2016 – 2nd
2015 – 10th
2014 – 3rd
2013 – 5th
2012 – 9th
2011 – 20th
2010 – 9th

Still…not…quite for LSU. The best team never to have won a national championship still hasn’t won a national championship.

Enough of 2017’s team remains intact for this season that LSU will certainly contend for a title once again—the dream is not gone—but a consensus preseason ranking of #3 (meaning me and the coaches) reflects mild concern over how the team replaces the eight lost Super Six routines while remaining at the same level or getting better, which is likely required. Continued improvement is not necessarily a guarantee.


Vault
Lineup locks
Edney (9.910), Hambrick (9.905), Harrold (9.900), Edwards (FR)
Lineup options
Finnegan (9.855), Priessman (9.855), Cannamela (9.820), Macadaeg (9.790 in 2016), Desiderio (FR), Kirby (-)

LSU will experience a natural dip in vault scores this season without Gnat’s DTY, the project being to minimize that dip as much as possible.

This season, the Y1.5 from Edney must take over as the auto-9.9+ at the end of the lineup receiving the team’s best scores, while the 1.5s from Harrold and Hambrick will have to bear a little more of the weekly scoring burden. That’s a potential point of concern as Hambrick’s 1.5 was touch-and-go in 2017 (2 falls, 9.700 in Super Six), but we know both gymnasts are capable of 9.9s. There’s just less buffer now if they have a bad one.

The new secret vault weapon will be the freshman Edwards, who auspiciously begins her collegiate career by upgrading to a Y1.5 with second-best dynamics behind Edney.  She will be a constant in the lineup and accounts for LSU getting back up to at least four 10.0 starts. It’s not the five of last season, but it’s enough to get by and stay among the top couple teams. We’ll see meets where all four of these vaulters go 9.9. Desiderio could be a wildcard here for a 5th 10.0 start, someone who vaulted a DTY as an elite, but is she vaulting this season?

To fill out the lineup, LSU will have more than enough perfectly countable fulls. Finnegan has been clean for 9.825-9.850 for two seasons now, and while Priessman‘s constant history of leg injuries means the team won’t ever depend on her for VT/FX the way we expected when she was an elite, she did get strong scores for fulls last season. Macadaeg also impressed at Gymnastics 101 with improved amplitude on her full, reasserting herself as another real option. Also on the list will be Cannamela and Kirby should injuries dictate, but LSU may not have to dig that far into the depth bag.

Expect 49.4s and 49.5s here and there throughout the season, keeping LSU up with the top schools. Will it be every week, and will the scores be as high as last year? Not necessarily.


Bars
Lineup locks
Priessman (9.925), Edney (9.900), Hambrick (9.885), Finnegan (9.880), Harrold (9.855)
Lineup options
Durante (FR), Kirby (-), Macadaeg (-), Cannamela (9.662 in 2016)

The bars lineup remains the most intact, so expect the results to be pretty consistent compared to last season. Five of the six return from the final 2017 lineup, where Priessman and Finnegan will again lead the scoring. Priessman is currently returning from successfully filling up her knee-surgery rewards card but should be ready for the season and already has everyone excited by showing improved leg form on the Pak and DLO.

Edney and Hambrick were good for 9.850-9.900 pretty much every time out last season and will expect the same for 2018. Harrold must figure as well, though a few built-in deductions (and a double front dismount) kept her score in the 9.8s last season. LSU has removed the Shap 1/2 for 2018 in an effort to minimize those deductions and will hope that on the days she sticks, she can now start getting 9.900. Harrold’s career-high on bars is 9.875, and she’s Ruby Harrold, and that will never do.

The only change to the lineup will be the role vacated by Zamardi, which looks like it goes to Durante. Like Priessman, Durante has been out with cartilage cleanup surgery, but she has the handstands to make this lineup and factor significantly. LSU was typically 49.3s and 49.4s on bars last year, and the same should go for 2018.

When backups are required, Kirby looks like the best choice, a routine that could reasonably get a 9.800 but probably won’t break into the best-case-scenario six.


Beam
Lineup locks
Finnegan (9.945), Macadaeg (9.900), Hambrick (9.900), Edney (9.875)
Lineup options
Desiderio (FR), Campbell (FR), Kirby (-), Li (9.755), Cannamela (9.650 in 2016), Priessman (9.525), Dean (FR)

Beam has been a major strength for LSU over the last three seasons and should remain one in 2018.

But of course, we need to talk about the positions of Macadaeg and Hambrick. If you’re familiar with this site, you know I love an effective score-building strategy, and starting with Macadaeg and Hambrick has been effective. Ascending-quality lineup orders are for losers. At the same time, starting with two great beamers is a luxury that really only works if a team also has big scores at the very end of the lineup, as LSU did last season with Finnegan and Gnat. Otherwise, the numbers can plateau quite easily (see teams that move their best beamer to the first spot to try to gain consistency).

This year, LSU needs a new partner in crime for Finnegan at the back of the lineup to keep that strategy intact, the best option looking like Desiderio. Desiderio has always shown an impressive mixture of power and splits on beam that should do quite well for her in college. Edney will also return to the lineup, rounding out a group of five that will expect plenty of 49.4s.

The real question is the sixth member of the lineup, a spot currently occupied by a sign that says TBD. Li was the #7 beamer last year for strong scores when called upon and should be in line to take that spot (though didn’t compete at the 101). Also consider Campbell. If she’s going to make a lineup her first year, it will be beam—her best piece—while backup options include Kirby, Cannamela, and Dean, depending on form. The people are there. It’s just a matter of who shows health and consistency. This could be another of D-D’s “the third spot is up for grabs in training every week” seasons.


Floor
Lineup locks
Hambrick (9.930), Edney (9.870), Desiderio (FR), Finnegan (9.831)
Lineup options
Harrold (9.850), Priessman (9.685), Kirby (9.625), Cannamela (9.050 in 2016)

We’re not used to worrying about LSU and floor, but given that only two routines return from last year’s final lineup, we do need to talk about it. The most significant determining factors in LSU returning to floor success this season will be Desiderio and Edney. Desiderio needs to come into the lineup with her big DLO and be an anchor-level score, while Edney needs to make the lineup every week this time. Edney was excellent in her occasional appearances last year but (inexplicably?) didn’t make the final six. LSU doesn’t have that luxury this season. Those two have to get the Gnat/Kelley scores.

The other member of the big three will be Hambrick and her DLO returning for anticipated 9.9s, but also keep an eye on Harrold. With a front 2/1, it looks like she’s becoming the replacement Ewing, which also gives LSU a fourth E pass.

Finnegan‘s overall high-level execution has established a solid spot for herself in the lineup, proving she’s physically able to stand up to doing floor every week, leaving one more spot. Kirby and Cannamela competed at the 101 and will provide reasonable options, though getting deducted for dance elements is a worry for both. Dare we call upon a Priessman floor routine? It’s a risk, but if the Tigers are going to be the best floor team in 2018, they need something from Priessman.

Filling out those last couple routines won’t be a huge problem—we’re going to see plenty of 49.4+s especially at home—but while comparable replacements to last year’s successful lineup seem to exist, they may not be at the same level as the gymnasts they’re replacing. As on vault, it’s reasonable to expect some scoring regression from last season.


Nothing but the win will do for the Tigers this year. They’ve done the second-place thing, and they’re over it.

Making Super Six should be child’s play. Success is measured by a title. LSU had the team to do it last year but came up short. In most respects, the team retains that same quality this year…but only as long as a new person emerges on vault and floor to deliver those Gnat scores. Not a simple ask.

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