BATON ROUGE – The No. 3 LSU Gymnastics team defeated No. 14 Ohio State by a score of 196.975-196.775 on Friday night in the PMAC to start off the new year.
The Tigers welcomed 12,023 fans to the PMAC for opening night of the season, marking the second largest crowd for a home opener. The last time LSU opened the season with a win against a ranked opponent was in 2021, when the squad took down No. 15 Arkansas.
“All in all, I’m happy with the start. It was solid. We went against a very good team tonight who had nothing to lose walking in here and we had to fight our way out of a jam and I’m proud of the way we fought. That has become a hallmark of our team,” said head coach Jay Clark.
“It was good to get back in there for the first time. We let them know how we need to go about correcting some things and we will go back to the gym to get better. I thought we looked tight in spots and the environment climbed over us, which is something we love.”
The night was highlighted by senior Haleigh Bryant, who took home vault and all-around titles on the night and freshman Amari Drayton, who had an impressive debut on vault and floor in her first competition as a Tiger.
LSU opened the first meet of the new season on vault as junior KJ Johnson led off with a 9.825. Drayton followed with an impressive 9.925 in her first collegiate routine. Junior Aleah Finnegan posted a strong routine in the third spot with a 9.875 while newcomer Savannah Schoenherr followed with a 9.625. In her return to the PMAC, fifth-year senior Kiya Johnson scored a 9.80 before Bryant closed the first rotation with a 9.950 to help LSU finish with a 49.375 in the first rotation.
After leading off on bars in 14 meets for the Tigers in 2023, junior Alexis Jeffrey picked up right where she left and put up a solid 9.90 to start the second rotation. Sophomore Ashley Cowan scored a 9.800 in spot two while Kiya Johnson hit her routine and scored a 9.925. The lineup saw fresh faces in Konnor McClain and Schoenherr who had solid performances with their scores of 9.825 and 9.850, respectively. Bryant anchored the bars squad with a score of 9.875.
Johnson took home the bars title in her first competition back to move her total to 41 career titles and her fourth on the event.
The Tigers posted another 49.375 in the second rotation and led the Buckeyes by a score of 98.750-98.425 at the halfway point in the PMAC.
Jeffrey once again led off for the Tigers in the third rotation, this time on beam. The junior scored a 9.775. Senior Sierra Ballard and McClain suffered back-to-back falls during their routines, but Bryant stayed composed and scored a 9.925 to boost the Tigers. Kiya Johnson posted a 9.850 in the fifth spot before Finnegan took it home and closed out the rotation strong with a 9.950.
Finnegan’s performance on beam earned her the win on the night, moving her career total to 16 and eighth on beam.
LSU moved into the last rotation trailing Ohio State 147.725-147.450.
On floor, Ballard got the momentum going and led off with a strong 9.90 routine. Senior Olivia Dunne made her first floor appearance since 2022 and scored a 9.875. KJ Johnson followed with a solid routine in the third spot that scored a 9.850. Finnegan earned a 9.90 followed by a 9.925 performance from Bryant. Drayton continued her impressive night as she closed out the Tiger’s first meet of the year with a 9.925.
The floor squad posted a 49.525 in the last rotation to help lift the Tiger’s over the Buckeyes and secure the first win of the year.
Bryant was able to secure the all-around title for the meet with her score of 39.675. The senior now owns 62 wins, which ties her with Ashleigh Gnat and Jennifer Woods at eighth for most career titles in school history.
The Tigers are back in action on Saturday, January 13 as they take the stage at the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad Meet in West Valley City, Utah at 3 p.m. CT on ABC.