Missouri gymnastics closes out season with loss to No. 3 LSU

The Tigers fell behind in the first rotation after a subpar showing on the uneven parallel bars.

Missouri gymnastics’ final meet of the season ended in the first rotation. While the phrase “it’s not over until it’s over” is the bane of many first-half leads, Missouri lacked any true strength to uphold that statement.

The largest first-rotation deficits Missouri faced during the 2021 season were 0.875 against Georgia, 0.525 against Kentucky, and 1.025 against Florida. All of these meets ended in a Missouri loss.

After the first rotation against LSU, Missouri faced a 0.850 deficit.

The Tigers put their season’s most consistent bar gymnasts, junior Alisa Sheremeta, freshman Amaya Marshall and freshman Hollyn Patrick, at the beginning of the rotation, as they had for the previous three meets. In those meets, Missouri’s entire roster was in rhythm and improved its confidence for the rest of the meet.

This plan backfired, as Missouri’s underwhelming opening on the bars allowed LSU to jump to a huge lead.

Because Missouri struggled on the bars, it put more pressure on its later routines to perform. After sophomore Sienna Schreiber’s poor routine scored a 9.250, freshman Haleigh Bryant closed LSU’s rotation with a perfect ten on the vault.

The confident and energetic Missouri squad that met against Arkansas and Georgia in the weeks before was absent.

While Missouri recovered in the second rotation with a reasonable score of 48.950, LSU continued its dominance by extending their lead to 1.150 points in the second rotation.

Bryant and sophomore Kiya Johnson carried the Bayou Bengals to victory, as they tied for the all-around title at 39.625 points. Each scored perfect tens in one event and was the second-highest in another, and capped the Tigers’ victory.

In the loss, Missouri had few highlights compared to the display of LSU, but the team’s beam performance shone through. Freshman Sydney Schaffer put up a 9.900 along with Marshall, and Schreiber scored a 9.975 to push the Tigers to their second-highest beam score in program history at 49.425.

Yet the second-best beam performance in Missouri history only tied LSU’s beam performance.

More than anything, the meet separated the good from the great. Missouri didn’t quite match its recent success, but it is still in a much better place than they were at the end of January.

Their average score in the first four meets was 195.038, but in their last four, it grew to 196.444 (difference of 1.406). The growth of athletes such as freshman Jena Swanson and Sheremeta contributed to this improvement.

Since the beginning of the season, Swanson competed in more events until she missed the last two meets of the season. The Tigers missed Swanson’s consistency, having to replace her with the inexperienced freshman Kalise Newson. Each of Swanson’s events, bars, vault and floor, struggled in her absence against LSU.

Entering the meet, each team came in on opposite streaks. Missouri reversed its fortunes from the first half of the season, winning two of its last three meets and posted their three highest scores of the year.

LSU also reversed its fortunes, losing its last three meets. It regressed slightly in its scores, but it still put up solid scores in the SEC. In each one of those losses, they exceeded Missouri’s score against Georgia.

But against the Tigers, No. 3 LSU proved its mettle as a championship contender. Throughout the season they met the top-tier SEC teams in every single category. They ranked second or third in every event among SEC teams.

The Tigers are elite in every single event and plan to travel to Huntsville, Alabama March 20 looking for their fourth SEC gymnastics championship in five seasons.

Missouri, on the other hand, goes to the SEC championships with a great chance at jumping up in the placing. Their progress as a team as well as their meets against Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama show that at the very least four other teams are within the Tigers’ reach.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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