SEC GYMNASTICS LSU AT ARKANSAS :

Razorbacks have tough task with Tigers

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, February 10, 2017
Arkansas head coach Mark Cook congratulates Mia Bargiacchi on her floor routine against Missouri Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas head coach Mark Cook congratulates Mia Bargiacchi on her floor routine against Missouri Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 23 Arkansas has picked up steam with a two-meet winning streak fueled by reining SEC freshman gymnast of the week Jessica Yamzon.

But the Razorbacks' run of victories, with dual-meet triumphs over No. 5 Alabama and No. 17 Auburn, is in serious jeopardy tonight at Barnhill Arena against loaded No. 2 LSU.

WHEN 7:30 p.m.

WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville

RECORDS LSU 5-0, 4-0 SEC; Arkansas 2-3, 2-2

TV SEC Network

RANKINGS No. 2 LSU (197.555 average); No. 23 Arkansas (195.305)

SERIES LSU leads 27-5-1

LAST YEAR LSU won 197.425 to 196.15 in Baton Rouge; LSU won 197.5 to 196.5 at SEC championships in North Little Rock

COACHES D-D Breaux (706-416-8 in 40th year at LSU); Mark Cook (180-219-3 in 15th year at Arkansas; 250-252-4 in 19th year overall)

EVENTS Vault: No. 3 LSU 49.39, No. 22 Arkansas 48.865; Bars: No. 4 LSU 49.32, No. 41 Arkansas 48.525; Beam: No. 2 LSU 49.375, No. 15 Arkansas 48.985; Floor: No. 2 LSU 49.47, No. 19 (tie) Arkansas 48.93.

TOP GYMNASTS (Top 100)

Vault: No. 2 Ashleigh Gnat (LSU) 9.94, No. 20 (tie) Kennedi Edney (LSU) 9.87, No. 24 (tie) Lexie Priessman (LSU) 9.863, No. 52 (tie) Sydney McGlone (Ark), Sydney Ewing (LSU), Sarah Finnegan (LSU) and Julianna Cannamela (LSU) 9.83, No. 69 (tie) Braie Speed (Ark) 9.82, No. 81 Myia Hambrick (LSU) 9.81.

Bars: No. 10 Priessman (LSU) 9.88, No. 15 (tie) Edney (LSU), Finnegan (LSU) 9.87, No. 24 Ruby Harrold (LSU) 9.858, No. 45 (tie) Hambrick (LSU) 9.835, No. 57 (tie) Shae Zamardi (LSU) 9.825.

Beam: No. No. 9 Hambrick (LSU) 9.88, No. 21 (tie) Edney (LSU) 9.856, No. 25 (tie) Lauren Li (LSU) 9.85, No. 33 (tie) Gnat (LSU) 9.845, No. 46 (tie) Erin Macadaeg (LSU) 9.83, No. 48 (tie) Jessica Yamzon (Ark) 9.825, No. 61 (tie) Samantha Nelson (Ark) 9.82, No. 65 (tie) Finnegan (LSU) 9.815, No. 85 (tie) Hailey Garner (Ark) 9.794.

Floor: No. 5 Gnat (LSU) 9.935, No. 12 Edney (LSU) 9.9, No. 32 (tie) McKenna Kelley (LSU) 9.867, No. 38 (tie) Sydney Ewing (LSU and Zamardi (LSU) 9.86, No. 46 (tie) Harrold (LSU) 9.85.

All-Around: No. 4 (tie) Gnat (LSU) and Edney (LSU) 39.5, No. 9 Finnegan (LSU) 39.413, No. 25 Hambrick (LSU) 39.269, No. 56 Yamzon (Ark) 38.93.

MEET NOTES

Arkansas Coach Mark Cook won his 250th meet as a head coach and his 180th meet at Arkansas with last week’s 196.35 at No. 17 Auburn. … Tonight’s meet has been dubbed the Daddy-Daughter Princess Date Night, with a light-up tiara giveaway for the first 100 kids. Children are encouraged to wear their favorite princess costumes. … Arkansas’ Jessica Yamzon is the reigning SEC freshman gymnast of the week after winning the all-around with a 39.275 at Auburn. … Arkansas senior Amanda Wellick, who has been out since Jan. 13 with a torn right Achilles, announced at the school’s recent Red Tie Dinner that she would return to the team in 2018. … Arkansas’ last victory over LSU was a 197.225 to 196.325 decision at Barnhill Arena on Jan. 20, 2012.

The Tigers, who are averaging 197.555 per meet, arrive with three of the nation's top 10 all-around performers in Ashleigh Gnat, Kennedi Edney and Sarah Finnegan, as well as No. 25 Myia Hambrick. LSU (5-0, 4-0 SEC), which has not scored lower than 197.425, is in pursuit of its first NCAA championship under 40th-year Coach D-D Breaux.

The Razorbacks have put together their best two meets the last two Fridays. A big beam performance triggered the upset of No. 5 Alabama, and a great bars routine, led by freshmen Michaela Burton, Hailey Garner and Yamzon, helped ignite the victory at Auburn.

"I feel like we're on track," Arkansas Coach Mark Cook said. "It's still a long season. ... Having those two wins back-to-back, as far as Alabama and Auburn, definitely helped the mental game, and it motivates them for the upcoming meets.

"We've got No. 2 coming in this Friday, so it's going to be a really tough competition."

LSU is second only to powerhouse Oklahoma, which is averaging 197.76. The Tigers' Gnat, a 5-foot senior, is one of only two gymnasts in the country with a 10 on the vault. She and Edney, a 5-3 freshman, are tied for fourth nationally with average scores of 39.5 in the all-around. Finnegan is ninth at 39.413. Edney is the reigning SEC gymnast of the week after winning the all-around last week vs. Missouri.

"You can't take any SEC team for granted," Breaux said. "The SEC is loaded. There's so much talent on all the teams. ... Every team has got potential to be great, and Arkansas is one of those teams."

Yamzon, Arkansas' lone all-around performer with the season-ending injury of senior Amanda Wellick, is No. 56 nationally with a 36.93 average.

"It was rough to see Amanda go down," Yamzon said. "I kind of just knew we all had to step up a little bit and do everything for her. She's still a leader on this team."

Yamzon said back-to-back dual meet victories has the team energized.

"I think we're all excited. We're just going to go in and do what we've been training and we'll see what happens."

Arkansas' road victory in Auburn, Ala., will factor into the team's regional qualifying score, which will be determined in a few more weeks. The Razorbacks' ranking of No. 23 is largely due to a 193.95, which featured a meltdown on bars in a loss to Missouri on Jan. 13.

"The wins are great," Cook said. "The girls have been doing well, dialing into their routines and gaining some momentum. Some of the routines were better, and landings were better [at Auburn]. It was a loud crowd and they absorbed the energy. We have to continue doing that."

Sports on 02/10/2017

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