2018 Outlook – LSU Tigers


  • 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
  • Competed 5 BB routines in 2017 for 9.755 avg
  • 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
  • Competed 7 VTs in 2017 for 9.829 RQS
  • Can provide backup routines on all four pieces as needed
Sarah Finnegan
  • Added AA in 2017, competing all four events in 7 meets
  • Team’s top BB routine (9.945)
  • Will miss 2018 season with torn Achilles
  • Anchored UB in 2017 for 9.925 RQS
  • CGA Legs limit contributions on other events
  • Will contribute VT, FX when able
  • 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
  • Competed regular VT, UB in 2017
  • Performs Y1.5 on VT
  • Looking to add FX for 2018
Ashlyn Kirby VT
  • Competed 1 FX for 9.625 in 2017
Reagan Campbell
  • Texas Dreams
  • 5th AA at 2016 JO Nationals, Senior D
Bridget Dean
  • Orlando Metro
  • 8th AA at 2015 JO Nationals, Senior A
Christina Desiderio
  • Expected to contribute on at least two pieces right away
  • Parkettes
  • 12th at 2016 Olympic Trials
Sami Durante
  • Georgia Elite
  • 6th UB at 2017 JO Nationals, Senior E
  • Expected to contribute on UB
Sarah Edwards
  • Will contribute VT with Y1.5
  • Lanier’s
Olivia Gunter
  • North Shore
  • 2017 Louisiana State FX champ
Gracen Standley
  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

14 thoughts on “2018 Outlook – LSU Tigers”

  1. I don’t see how LSU has the scores to contend for a title this season. I don’t see a route much beyond 197.5, and I think it’s going to take a 198 to beat Florida.

  2. Based on the 101 event – Campbell needs to make the beam lineup, that routine is just so different then most others that if she can be consistent it should score well.

    Also, I’m calling for Erin to get a 10 on beam in the leadoff spot (if Myia performs to her capabilities at the same meet LSU will go back-to-back 10s in the 1 and 2 slots). Now that would be awesome to see.

    ** The only team that has a roster to match Florida scores is UCLA, but the variables – injuries, typical not living up to expectations for the Bruins – keep them down. But if they surprise on vault with a “few” 10 SV and improve the floor quality to match bars/beam scores then, at leas on paper, the title will be a real battle between the Gators and Bruins.

    1. Oh, and watch out for Alabama as a surprise title contender to Florida and potentially UCLA – there is some good karma coming their way after they did good during the senate election. Karma.

    2. I would kill for a real UCLA-Florida showdown. It’s pretty much what I had eagerly anticipated when they nabbed all these big recruits. I will always love UCLA but they’ve lost that ‘edge’ that turned big talent into big winning back in the early 2000s…

    3. No mention of Oklahoma? Big name talent on paper is one thing, but hitting flawless routines when it counts is another. I expect OU to put up another big performance in April – whoever wants to beat them is going to have to be 100% on fire. I don’t know if UF, UCLA are capable of that quite yet.

      1. OU looked phenomenal at their preview event. Not surprising, they have such good training that they fill in the lineups with new quality routines year after year. The beam rotation barely had a few minor wobbles, and the new frosh look so much cleaner than they did in their JO vids. I don’t know what KJ does, but it works consistently, and I expect big things from them.

        It seems like it will be an OU-Florida showdown this year. Florida has the strongest roster, while OU is OU with new up and coming ninja L10s all the time. I would be pretty shocked to see anyone else contending for the title.

  3. I don’t know the first thing about Macadaeg, but there has to be a story behind “I have competed floor once in three years and got a 9.95”.

    1. She had an ankle injury last season so she was limited to beam but she was in every single lineup. She seems extremely consistent and her FTY at 101 was surprisingly clean considering she hasn’t competed vault since 2016.

    2. She competed floor in Las Vegas against NCSt her sophomore year, and was a late injury substitution even then. Then the ankle…

  4. Spencer, I know that you love the balance beam strategy but as a big fan of Hambrick, I just want her to get a least one 10 on beam and floor during her final season. And if they keep her in her usual 2nd spot, she’s less likely to get that 10. And Hambrick leaving NCAA without a 10, it would be a shame.

    1. I’m still not over Lindsey Cheek never getting a 10. I don’t want to add Hambrick to that list! They are two of my all-time favorites.

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