BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU gymnastics is once again in a very familiar position, gearing up to make a run at the program's first national title with a team loaded with young and veteran talent.
"Yes, we were close last year, and it helps us as it relates to our confidence going into this year, but this is a brand new ball game, brand new teams," said senior Lloimincia Hall.
Hall and the Tigers head into the NCAA gymnastics championship with plenty of experience on their side. It is their fourth consecutive appearance at nationals, and they hope to make it a third straight in the Super Six by advancing through Friday's semifinals.
"We're there on a mission. And we're all about business. And we're ready to get it done," said Hall.
LSU returns several key members from last year's team that finished in a program-high third place in Birmingham like Hall and Jessie Jordan.
It will be a bit of a homecoming for the two seniors from Texas. They both spent plenty of time competing in the Dallas area growing up, including in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena where the semifinals will begin Friday.
Of course, the entire team has competed in the Metroplex Challenge in four of the last five seasons. They're also very familiar with their semifinal competition in No. 1 Oklahoma, but the Tigers say they're focused on the bigger picture.
"Yeah, there's going to be big teams there, but we can't worry about a specific team because ultimately we're there to beat everyone," said sophomore Sydney Ewing.
"It's not, 'We're going to go into Super Six and hopefully we'll get one team or hopefully we'll get by another team.' We're there to just dominate," said sophomore Ashleigh Gnat.
"I can't even write .075 in between and that's what we lost SEC's by. It's one little mistake, and that's the championship season," said head coach D-D Breaux. "When there's this much parity and so many talented teams in the country, it could be anybody's competition."
There are plenty of familiar names in the Tigers semifinal, including fellow SEC competitors Alabama and Auburn, and against competition like that there's very little room for error.
"I think we have to be on. We emphasize that you have to be on from the start because you don't want to dig a hole," said Breaux. "In this kind of competition, you can't dig a hole and get out of it, and I think that this team's prepared to do that.
"Starting on vaulting is certainly a great place to start because we've got a very, very good balance. From our first vault to our last vault, everyone's capable of excellence. So that's the thing that we've been trying to drive home."
"Thinking back on it, this season's gone by really fast, but we've gone through so many things and adversity. Each meet we've learned something, and I'm so ready to put it all together for nationals," said Ewing.
Nebraska and Oregon round out the Tigers' semifinals competition. LSU has faced and defeated all of these teams this season except Oklahoma, who they finished second to in the Metroplex Challenge, and Oregon State who they haven't faced this year.
"These are teams that are all kind of going for the same goal, but we have to kind of stay on what we can control," said Hall. "Not looking at the scores or anything else but stay in our zone. So it's a battle of who can hit on that day."