Now that I am a certified Missouri Tigers gymnastics superfan — I even bought season tickets! And I live tweet! — I thought I’d preview the evening’s gymnastics matchup, especially since we are a #gymnasticsschool.
When: Friday, January 20
Where: Pete Maravich Assembly Center | Baton Rouge, LA
Time: 6:00 p.m. CST
TV: SEC Network
History: In the all-time series against LSU, Missouri trails the Tigers, 8-51. However, out of all eight Mizzou victories, three came from just last season, with the most recent being the 2022 Raleigh Regionals when they beat them in the first round (source: MUTigers.com)
Last Time On The Mats
When we last saw OUR Tigers, they took down the then-no. 20 Georgia Bulldogs (currently no. 17) by 0.55 and a score of 196.975 to 196.425 last Friday at Hearnes. Let’s recap quickly.
First rotation (MIZ vault, UGA bars): Dawgs led by a pretty sizable amount by gymnastics standards (0.625)
Second rotation (MIZ bars, UGA vault): Dawgs still leading, but margin is cut down to only 0.2 with Mizzou’s two strongest events remaining.
Third rotation (MIZ beam, UGA floor): While not beating their beam record set two weeks ago vs Illinois (49.525), they still put up pretty big numbers and ended up on top by 0.28. Georgia, though I personally LOVED their stylistic choices — their music was so on point — faltered a bit score-wise here.
Final rotation (MIZ floor, UGA beam): I will say, ending with beam is hard enough, but on the road, WHILE trying to make a comeback, is difficult. Georgia started out really great and it seemed like it was going to be neck-and-neck, but a costly fall and reoccurring balance checks meant they had to count a score they likely would not have wanted to.
What To Expect At The Venue
Mizzou hit its best attendance record since 2013 in their home opener at Hearnes against no. 20 Georgia last week. That attendance? 2,628. That sounds great, right? It looks pretty full for where they allow fans to sit (links to my tweet pic of the setup). That is, until you see that LSU’s attendance.
Per a quick google search, LSU finished the 2022 season ranked no. 1 in the country in average attendance, overtaking Utah with an average of 11,691 across five home meets at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Furthermore, in their meet on Monday against no. 1 Oklahoma, they had 12,065 fans. To put this in further perspective, LSU Men's Hoops averaged 10,365 in attendance last season in the same venue. DAMN.
It will be LOUD. And it will be an absolute madhouse, 1) because they love their gymnastics teams at LSU, who have a storied history — they’ve finished in the top 10 in 9/10 years, and top 5 in 6 of those — and, 2) because they have Olivia “Livvy” Dunne, a money-making machine (she’s the country’s highest grossing woman NIL earner, even higher than Olympic Gold Medal All-Around champion, Sunisa Lee). The part national team member, part gymnastics star, part social media personality has amassed more than 3 million followers on Instagram (about the same as the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young) and 6.8 million on TikTok. Dunne’s fans are so rabid that they have had to set extra security precautions in place both at home and on the road because her fans are known to be... ummm.... vocal. Even when she’s not competing— she stood aside the sidelines when they faced Utah in SLC and security had to get involved — opposing teams will have to deal with the excessive crowd noise.
Disclaimer: LSU took on no. 1 Oklahoma on Monday, Jan. 16, but that data is not included in the averages or highest scores from RoadtoNationals.com. However, I will say, LSU had a fantastic meet, coming away with their highest team score this season (197.45, which would move them up to no. 9 nationally), as well as high scores on Floor (49.45), Beam (49.225), and Vault (49.325), all of which are higher than Mizzou’s highest scores, aside from Beam, because, well... #beamqueens.
Matchups to Keep an Eye on
While there aren’t individual head-to-head matchups, I thought it was an interesting to share the no. 1 vs the no. 1, no. 2 vs no. 2, etc. And a wild card. LSU is listed first, as they’re the home team. Scores in parentheses are their highest of the season.
Floor: Alyona Shchennikora (9.925) vs. Alisa Sheremeta (9.925) | Aleah Finnegan (9.95) vs. Hannah McCrary (9.925) | Sierra Ballard (9.9) vs. Siena Schreiber (9.9) | Haleigh Bryant (9.9) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.875) | KJ Johnson (9.85) vs. Alonna Kratzer (9.85) | Wild Card: Kiya Johnson (9.9) vs. Casey Poddig (9.825) OR Amari Celestine
Analysis: This one should be close, as Mizzou has improved each meet, and LSU just posted their best score on Monday. They’re pretty much dead even here. However, each LSU gymnast’s average score (spread over 3 meets) is bit more inconsistent that Mizzou, and despite the 9.9’s across the board, their averages stray from their high scores a bit more. Additionally, Kiya & KJ have far lower averages, and Kiya has only competed in two meets. On the Mizzou side, Sheremeta is legit THAT good (a 9.912 average), and the others’ averages are pretty consistent. I’ve included Amari Celestine as a WC in case she returns to the lineup. The 2nd Team All-American would be a great addition back to the Tiger lineup.
There’s a reason Jocelyn Moore ends the show. Wow. pic.twitter.com/DfRZ0bgREQ— Karen S (@karensteger) January 14, 2023
Beam: Haleigh Bryant (9.95) vs. Helen Hu (9.95) | Elena Arenas (9.925) vs. Siena Schreiber (9.95) | Aleah Finnegan (9.9) vs. Grace Anne Davis (9.9) | Kai Rivers (9.85) vs. Alisa Sheremeta (9.875) | KJ Johnson (9.75) vs. Addison Lawrence (9.85) | Wild Card: Bryce Wilson (9.75) vs. Sydney Schaffer (9.75)
Analysis: Haleigh is legit (9.917 avg) and will be going for her fourth straight All-Around title in this meet, and Elena has also shown consistency in her two meets (9.9). Bryce has competed in this event twice this season, so I’m throwing her in, though her first meet was an abject disaster. She could also be replaced with Kiya Johnson (9.85) or Sierra Ballard (9.825), who have each competed one time. As for Mizzou, they are g-o-o-d. Alisa, as mentioned already, is the epitome of consistency, and her average (9.863) almost mirrors her high score. And Helen (& Siena, for that matter), both First Team All-Americans as season ago, are jaw-droppingly good and AVERAGE 9.938. Hu is on another playing field though, in my mind. She is honestly must-see tv. Also, good for Grace Ann, who only competed on beam once last season, and is one of the Big 3 now.
Bars: Haleigh Bryant (9.95) vs. Helen Hu (9.925) | Aleah Finnegan (9.925) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.9) | Alexis Jeffrey (9.9) vs. Alisa Sheremeta (9.875) | Kiya Johnson (9.9) vs. Siena Schreiber (9.85) | Elena Arenas (9.875) vs. Addison Lawrence (9.8) | Wild Card: Olivia Dunne (9.8-9.9 in 2022) OR Alyona Shchennikora (9.875) vs. Hollyn Patrick (9.775)
Analysis: Will the Bayou Bengals get back the services of Olivia Dunne this meet? An IG story showed her transitioning between the bars (no dismount shown) with a caption saying, “no shin, no problem”, so it’s possible she’ll return. Kiya has only competed in this event twice, but her high-avg score discrepancy is lower than both Elena & Alyona, so I’m slotting her ahead of them. Regardless, the purple & gold Tigers’ bar squad is stacked and consistent, so this will be a tough one. As for Mizzou, is Amari Celestine back? The broadcast on Friday said she was out with illness, not an injury, so it’s possible? If so, her highest score from 2022 was a 9.9, and the black & gold could sure use that.
Score: 9.85. Hot damn. Patrick gets a 9.75, followed by Lawrence with a 9.75. Sheremeta looked great. pic.twitter.com/iqrv56DdyA— Karen S (@karensteger) January 14, 2023
Vault: Haleigh Bryant (9.925) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.9) | KJ Johnson (9.875) vs. Siena Schreiber (9.825) | Kiya Johnson (9.875) vs. Grace Ann Davis (9.825) | Aleah Finnegan (9.85) vs. McKenzie Patricelli (9.825) | Elena Arenas (9.85) vs. Hannah McCrary (9.725) | Wild Card: Alyona Shchennikora (9.875) vs. Sydney Shaffer (9.7) OR Amari Celestine (9.95 in 2022)
Analysis: Vault is hard in college, you guys. And unlike the Olympics, you don’t get two chances. You go at warp speed and you hope like hell you don’t pike or split your legs while sticking the landing or taking any extra steps. As you look at LSU, you’ll notice I put Alyona as the WC despite her having a higher score than both Elena & Aleah. That’s because their average scores are very similar to their high scores, whereas Alyona’s average is 9.608 across three meets. From stats alone, she seems prone to having some issues. Kiya Johnson is a reigning First Team All-American, so she has the potential to hit it big for LSU. As for Mizzou, the vault is, at present time anyway, their weakness. This is the single most important event where the return of Amari Celestine would be AMAZING. Her highest score in 2022 was 9.95. The First Team All-American will be listed in the WC position, as her status is unknown.
How Missouri Can Win
Floor: If Moore, a member of the ALL-SEC Freshmen Team a year ago, can score 9.9+, as she did several times last season.
Beam: Just keep it up! Mizzou is considered Beam Queens for a reason.
Bars: If Patrick can regain her bars form from a year ago, when she was regularly scoring 9.85+. If Moore keeps up her consistency, and she’s already reached her highest score in UB both times this season.
Vault: If McCrary, who was pretty much a mainstay on the apparatus last season, can score within her then-limits of 9.77 to 9.82 multiple times. Or if Shaffer, who scored a 9.77 many times last year, comes through. If Moore, who was awarded MANY a 9.95 last season, can get that extra 0.03 to 0.05.
Overall: If the freshmen — Poddig, Lawrence & Patricelli — do not allow the crowd noise to impact their performances. They’ve likely never been in this type of environment before. Remember, the lowest score is dropped from each apparatus, so the key is to remain consistent and stick to Mizzou Gymastics the way they’ve trained throughout each rotation, so it’s hard to have to let go of a score. To be the best you gotta hang with the best, and LSU, a storied program, is one of best.
I’m so excited.
UPDATE @ 3:41pm: It appears that Amari Celestine is, in fact, back in the lineup, per Mizzou Gymnastics’ twitter. Oliva Dunne is out with a stress fracture still, and Kiya Johnson is out for the season with an achilles injury. Devastating blow for the Bayou Bengals.
Rotation One: LSU begins on Vault, on Mizzou starts on Bars.
This is very hard to do, y’all.
- LSU’s leadoff, Arenas, scores a 9.825, while Mizzou counters with Siena Schreiber, who has a clean bars routine and scores a 9.825. Arenas is the score that will drop for LSU, as it was the lowest.
- Addison Lawrence, the freshman, goes second on bars and gets a 9.85. She does a really cool blind landing. I love the variation on Mizzou’s routines.
- 3. Chase Brock (9.85) vs Amari Celestine (9.850), who is BACK.
- KJ Johnson (9.9) vs Alisa Sheremeta (9.85)
- Aleah Finnegan (9.85) vs Jocelyn Moore (9.875)
- Haleigh Bryant did the most beautiful vault. She’s a former national champion, btw, and gets a perfect 10 vs Helen Hu, who was a bit too far away on her release and came off the bar. It’s okay though, as Helen’s score (9.225) will be the one that’s dropped.
After one rotation, LSU leads Mizzou by .225, 49.475 vs 49.250.
Rotation Two: MIZ on Vault, on LSU on Bars
- Addison Lawrence was the MO vault champion, the broadcast tells us, and scores a 9.75 vs. Alexis Jeffrey (from Warrensburg and a UCLA transfer!), who scores a 9.925. This is Jeffrey’s career-high.
- Hannah McCrary (9.775) vs Elena Arenas (9.85)
- Sienna Schreiber (9.8) vs Tori Tatum (9.9)
- Grace Anne Davis killed it! (9.825) vs Aleah Finnegan (9.85)
- Amari Celestine, the national runner-up on vault last year, is a bit off-center (9.775) vs Alyona Shchennikova (9.775)
- Jocelyn Moore (9.875) vs Haleigh Bryant (9.9)
After two rotations, LSU leads Mizzou by .600, 98.9 to 98.3. Mizzou’s strongest rotations remain.
It may be a loss, but check out this b
Rotation Three: MIZ on Floor, on LSU on Beam
- Kai Rivers has a fall on the beam and scores a 9.175 vs. Sienna Schreiber, who appears by my estimation, to have a great routine! She’s got a 9.85!
- Alonna Kratzer (my fave, who matched her career-high last week) has a GREAT routine and gets a 9.85 (again tying her career high) vs. Alyona, in her first beam routine of the season. She has several balance checks, and she gets a 9.70.
- Alisa Sheremeta — LOVE her — performs so TALL. She has a great routine (9.825) vs. Sierra Ballard (9.65), who has never done beam. She also has had several balance checks. The margin is closing for the Tigers.
- Hannah McCrary, in her best event, performs a really clean routine, getting a 9.825 vs. Elena Arenas, who has a solid routine and gets a 9.75.
- Jocelyn Moore has such a fun routine, and is just so good, if a little amped up. She gets a 9.85 vs. Haleigh Bryant, who may just be LSU’s savior tonight, and grabs a 9.9.
- Amari Celestine, who was 2nd team All-American last season, has a beautiful routine, nabbing a 9.9 vs. Aleah Finnegan (9.95)
After three rotations, LSU still leads the Tigers, by .275, 147.85 to 147.575
Rotation Four: MIZ on Beam, LSU on Floor
- Addison Lawrence is ICE COLD. I don’t see a balance check at all, and a stuck landing— she gets a 9.75 — vs. Sierra Ballard, who gets a 9.85.
- Sydney Shaffer almost falls off on an element and gets a 9.575 (that will be dropped) vs. Alyona S.
- Grace Ann Davis has a tough routine as well, and has a 9.6. That will have to count, unfortunately. She goes against Chase Brock, who jumped out of bounds on her first pass, before landing a bit short on a double-tuck. Due to the fall from Finnegan, they will likely have to keep this score for LSU. It’s a 9.70 for her.
- Alisa Sheremeta has as great, great routine, I think, and grabs a 9.85 vs. KJ Johnson gets a 9.925.
- Helen Hu has an amazing routine just how I knew she would, scoring a 9.925, vs. Aleah Finnegan, who takes a seat on her first pass. She gets a 9.375.
- Sienna Schreiber ends things for Mizzou with a 9.825, while Haleigh Bryant, who will win the All-Around for the fourth straight meet, has a great final pass, scores a 9.90 to end the night.
FINAL: LSU takes down Mizzou, 197.100 to 196.525. Black & gold loses by 0.575, unfortunately.
Regardless of the result, check out this beauty.