Alabama, Etta James event, home finale on tap for LSU gymnasts

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND. The LSU gymnastics team rushes out to congratulate teammate Lloimincia Hall on her floor routine-she scured 9.9 during the Auburn meet Jan. 13, 2012. The Tigers host Alabama, the reigning national champion, Friday night in their final home meet. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND. The LSU gymnastics team rushes out to congratulate teammate Lloimincia Hall on her floor routine-she scured 9.9 during the Auburn meet Jan. 13, 2012. The Tigers host Alabama, the reigning national champion, Friday night in their final home meet.

The fourth-ranked LSU gymnastics team has plenty packed into its last home meet of the season Friday.

The Tigers (9-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) will bid adieu to three seniors competing in their final home meet. It is also the sixth annual Etta James Memorial Meet, named in memory of former LSU linebacker Bradie James’ mother.

By the way, the Tigers will compete against No. 5
Alabama (5-2-1, 4-2-1), the reigning national champion, at 7 p.m. in the PMAC.

“This meet means a lot to us,” sophomore Rheagan Courville said. “It’s Etta James, it’s Alabama, it’s our senior night. We’re looking forward to seeing everybody there and we’re excited to be home.”

The Tigers are primed for payback after dropping an earlier contest to Alabama this season. LSU scored a season-low 195.525 points against the Tide at Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Jan. 18.

“Our meet didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,” Courville said. “So I think it’s a little bit of redemption and we need a breakout performance. This is a great time to do it.”

LSU has surged since its last meet with Alabama, dropping just one head-to-head meet since.

“We’re a much better team, much more prepared and much more mature than we were in January,” coach D-D Breaux said.

It culminated last week with a 197.050 team score in a home win against No. 7 Georgia. It was the first time LSU tallied a 197 or better at home since March 2010.

The performances have allowed LSU to steadily rise in the rankings, to its current and season-high No. 4 slot.

“We’re exactly where we want to be … but we know we can be so much better,” Courville said. “We’re working as hard as we can and trying to put it together for Friday.”

“When we see ourselves climbing the rankings we know we’re doing something right.”

But the gymnasts are not entirely satisfied.

“I think we’re at a good place, but there’s always room for improvement,” sophomore Lloimincia Hall said. “We haven’t quite hit all four events like we wanted to. This is the perfect time to do so.”

Hall knows a little about perfection; she notched a perfect score on her floor routine against Missouri earlier this season. She ranks second nationally in the event and has played a big part in making LSU the nation’s top-ranked team on the floor.

“In gymnastics, you may get a perfect 10, but there’s no such thing as a perfect routine,” Hall said. “I’m looking at how I can make that routine better so there’s no questions asked.”

The Crimson Tide is riding its own hot streak coming into the event, scoring 197-plus in each of its past three events, including a 197.075-196.375 win against No. 6 UCLA in Tuscaloosa last week.

This marks the sixth year LSU has partnered with James to help raise funds for his organization, Foundation 56. In the last five years, more than $250,000 has been dedicated to funding breast cancer research in Louisiana.

“We are so excited to have such an incredible opponent coming in for this meet, and we are thrilled that it will be a fantastic athletic event for such a great cause,” Breaux said.