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2019 Preview – LSU Tigers

  • Competed 14 VTs in 2018 for 9.870 RQS
  • Has potential Y1.5 on VT
  • Competed 5 FXs (9.845), 2 BBs (9.162)
Sarah Finnegan
  • Competed AA in 13 of 16 meets in 2018
  • Ranked #1 nationally on UB, #4 on BB, #7 on FX
  • RQS of 9.960 UB, 9.940 BB, 9.935 FX, 9.885 VT
  • Made final 2018 lineups on UB, FX
  • Ranked #7 nationally on UB (9.950)
  • Competed 9 VTs (9.870), 7 FXs (9.863 avg)
  • Competed AA in 13 of 16 meets in 2018
  • Team’s top returning VT score (9.900)
  • RQS of 9.930 FX, 9.915 UB, 9.870 BB
Ruby Harrold
  • Competed regular VT, UB in 2018
  • RQS of 9.845 UB, Avg of 9.733 on VT
  • Hit 4 of 5 FX routines in 2018
  • Missed 2018 season with torn Achilles
  • 9.925 RQS on FX in 2017
  • Competed 1 VT in 2017 for 9.825
Ashlyn Kirby UB
  • Competed FX each week for 9.870 RQS
  • Competed 2 UBs in 2018 (9.113 avg)
Reagan Campbell
  • Competed weekly BB for 9.840 RQS in 2018
Bridget Dean
  • Did not compete in 2018
Christina Desiderio
  • Made final 2018 lineups on BB, FX
  • RQS of 9.900 BB, 9.820 FX
Sami Durante
  • Competed UB weekly in 2018 for 9.880
Sarah Edwards
  • Competed Y1.5 VT each week in 2018 for 9.880 RQS
  • Provided early-season FX for 9.865 RQS
Olivia Gunter
  • Did not compete in 2018
Rebecca D’Antonio
  • Cypress Pointe
  • 3rd AA, 2018 Region 8s
  • Possible BB depth
Bailey Ferrer
  • Brandy Johnson’s
  • US elite, 2013-2014
  • VTs 10.0 start Omelianchik
  • Expected to contribute VT and FX with possible UB

2018 – 4th
2017 – 2nd
2016 – 2nd
2015 – 10th
2014 – 3rd
2013 – 5th
2012 – 9th
2011 – 20th
2010 – 9th
2009 – 6th

Every team is always fighting against the concept of regression. The roster-building project is, at the very least, about making sure the level from the previous season is maintained. That’s no small task for the top teams. LSU has been a title contender for 5+ years now and has been the “if not Oklahoma, then…” team for the last three seasons.

But the piranhas have gathered. With UCLA’s upset victory last season and Florida nipping LSU for 3rd at Super Six, the collection of legitimate challengers is broadening. Maintaining that position as the #2 team in the country, let alone improving on it, is far from a given for LSU in 2019. We know that LSU will enter the season as one of the favorites to make the 4-team championship, but what role LSU plays in that top four is still uncertain. Is LSU the #2 team again, or is LSU the one in the danger spot that might get picked off by a surging underdog that we’re currently underestimating?

Decisive in that regard will be how well (and where) LSU can improve its scoring potential from 2018 in the face of losing five 9.9s and five of the best routines on the team. When you combine the introduction of Bailey Ferrer with the return of McKenna Kelley, LSU should be able to get close to that level again (better on some events, weaker on others, but the same kind of total scores), yet that’s sort of the minimum expectation for the roster-building project. That’s refilling the tank from a season that was excellent but ultimately did not produce the result LSU wanted.

To improve on last year’s scores, to get closer to winning a title, LSU will also have to see more from some of these sophomores, potentially making the leap from depth option to competition-ready 9.875. Is that possible?

VAULT 2019
Lineup locks: Kennedi Edney, Sarah Edwards, Ruby Harrold, Sarah Finnegan
Lineup options: Bailey Ferrer, Julianna Cannamela, Lexie Priessman, McKenna Kelley

LSU showed four 10.0 starts in its final vault lineup last season, a feat that should doable again this year. The big question, and it will be a theme across the four events, is whether someone new can replicate that potential 9.950 from Hambrick to avoid a dip.

At the top, Kennedi Edney will be essential again as the anchor vaulter, and more scoring responsibility will be on Sarah Edwards in a deeper-lying lineup position this year after she burst into the vault team last season. This season, her vault can’t be just a fun bonus. It must be one of the main things. LSU will also have Ruby Harrold’s 1.5 in the lineup, which while not as consistent in landing control, provides exceptionally valuable difficulty to LSU keeping up with the best vaulting schools.

Typically, top teams aren’t looking at Yfulls as absolute lineup locks and essential scores, but Sarah Finnegan is capable of outscoring most of the 10.0-start possibilities with her full and should be treated as an equal lock.

In lifting the supply of 10.0s back up to four, most important will be Bailey Ferrer and her Omelianchik that we were introduced to in the 2017 J.O. season. LSU may have other 10.0-start possibilities depending on health and landings, coming from the likes of Julianna Cannamela, who showed a 1.5 at times last season but went back to the full at the end of the year for scores. And of course, there’s Lexie Priessman with either a 1.5 or a full. I never like to project Priessman in the vault and floor lineups because while she’s obviously very capable of big numbers, the main goal is just making sure her legs don’t turn to dust and fall off before the end of her senior season. She must be protected for bars.

BARS 2019
Lineup locks: Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman, Kennedi Edney, Ruby Harrold, Sami Durante
Lineup options: Bailey Ferrer, Bridget Dean, Ashlyn Kirby

Expect LSU’s bars lineup to be the most familiar and the most constant in 2019. There’s not a surplus of bars options on this team, so I fully expect the five lineup returners from last season—Finnegan, Priessman, Edney, Harrold, Durante—to compete every single week again this year. That will be enough to score quite well and, for the most part, maintain the potential from last season. Finnegan and Priessman frequently go 9.950, Edney will get some 9.9s of her own, and Harrold and Durante will almost always go over 9.8.

In the “who slots into Myia Hambrick’s lineup position?” conversation, the main nominee should be Ferrer. LSU will hope her routine comes through for a score that exactly maintains everything from last season, though she is brand new on the team this week so we’ll have to wait to see how it plays out. In that regard—and simply to protect against any unforeseen problems—LSU must have other bars options. Importantly, we saw Bridget Dean emerge from the cave for a bars routine at the 101. At this point in December, hers looks like a 9.750 set, but it’s nonetheless a usable routine. LSU is also trying to get Ashlyn Kirby back from injury. She provided backup bars last season, though did not hit in her two counting routines.

BEAM 2019
Lineup locks: Sarah Finnegan, Kennedi Edney, Reagan Campbell, Christina Desiderio
Lineup options: Sami Durante, Bridget Dean, Bailey Ferrer, Ashlyn Kirby, Julianna Cannamela

Beam is the most obvious point of concern for LSU this season because of the perfect-shaped hole in the lineup left by the departures of Macadaeg and Hambrick. It’s not going to be quite the same, and replacing those scores will be an onerous task. (The fact that both would sometimes get hosed for 9.850 in the first two spots almost helps the score-replacement project now because 9.850 is a very doable replacement task, even if replacing their actual gymnastics quality isn’t going to happen.)

Finnegan will remain the hope for a better future in the anchor position, and her fellow returners Campbell, Edney, and Desiderio will all be back in the lineup for 2019. Desiderio is the #2 returning score for LSU (9.900 RQS), and it seems she’ll be tasked with filling the leadoff role. So that’s four members of the lineup, done, easy peasy.

Now the hard part. Looking at the roster, the remaining two spots are wiiiiiiide open, but we did get some direction on that front from the 101 by seeing Durante and Dean in the lineup. Durante in particular looks like she’ll provide some solid replacement work, though it is reasonable to expect a drop in beam scores in the first-half positions for LSU this year. People like Finnegan and Campbell will have even more responsibility to get huge numbers in the late positions because they may not have the same early-lineup score support to lean on.

FLOOR 2019
Lineup locks: Kennedi Edney, Sarah Finnegan, McKenna Kelley, Christina Desiderio
Lineup options: Bailey Ferrer, Sarah Edwards, Ruby Harrold, Lexie Priessman, Ashlyn Kirby, Julianna Cannamela

While beam would be LSU’s most obvious point of regression compared to 2018, floor is the most obvious point of progress because LSU is losing one set from Hambrick (kind of an important set) but gaining what should be two strong scores from Kelley and Ferrer.

McKenna Kelley missed last season with injury but should return to scoring 9.9s this year, and floor has typically been Ferrer’s best event. It’s her most likely apparatus on which to deliver big numbers. If you put in those two, along with returners like Kennedi Edney, who should get 9.9s again this year, Christina Desiderio, who came along on floor toward the end of the season and will be expected to deliver bigger numbers more consistently this year, and Sarah Finnegan, who will Finnegan all over the place, that’s a very compelling five.

There should be plenty of choice for the remaining spot(s). Your ideal routine is Priessman’s, but see the note on vault. Otherwise, Kirby made the final lineup last season and is probably the favorite to lead off again once she’s fully back, Harrold is an excellent choice if the landing control is there, and Edwards will probably play the same role of providing a realistic lineup option that may or may not go depending on the week and the health of everyone else.

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