Christina Desiderio, LSU juniors aiming to give gymnastics team more going into busy weekend

6 days ago The Advocate 0

“The mummy” will not return for an injury-tested LSU gymnastics team Friday in the GymQuarters Invitational in St. Charles, Missouri.

For a change, that’s good news for the No. 9-ranked Tigers, trying to start to piece together better scores as the 2020 regular season enters its second half with LSU’s busiest weekend yet.

A hip flexor injury kept Christina Desiderio out of the lineup for three straight meets. She returned two meets ago on Jan. 31 against Alabama, but she had to have her hip and right thigh tightly wrapped to ward off any further potential injury.

But now the wrap is off and Desiderio, a junior from Hackettstown, New Jersey, is delighted.

“Thank God I’m out of that mummy wrap,” Desiderio said. “My hip is feeling a lot better, and I’m happy to be back out there.”

Desiderio has only performed on beam so far this season for the Tigers, but LSU co-head coach D-D Breaux is hopeful of getting more out of her in both meets this weekend. After the trip to St. Charles, Missouri, for the GymQuarters against No. 18 Iowa State, No. 19 Missouri and reigning NCAA Division II champion Lindenwood, the Tigers return home at 2:15 p.m. Sunday to host No. 12 Kentucky. The doubleheader weekend is designed to give LSU six home meets and help simulate the back-to-back competition days in the NCAA regionals and NCAA championship meet.

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“We were hoping to have her vaulting, but this (hip) thing set us back a little bit,” Breaux said. “We really need her on floor. My goal is to have her ready on floor so we can take Kiya (Johnson) out (Friday) so she can have a regular week. To do that, I need to have Christina Desiderio ready to go. If the opportunity is a 9.85, which is what we hope to get, we’d be losing a tenth. But if we score a 197.3 or 197.4 and rest (Johnson), it would be worth it.”

Desiderio came to LSU in 2018 as the brightest star in the Tigers’ large six-woman class. A two-time U.S. national team member, Desiderio competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials where she finished sixth on beam.

But Desiderio’s injury problems started long before this season’s hip flexor.

“She did a beautiful all-around, but she came in with a shoulder that was so bad I don’t know how she got through Olympic trials,” Breaux said. “She limped through her freshman year, had to have it tightened up a little bit. We’re just now feeling, ‘OK, let’s go.’

“We won’t ask her to do bars again, but she’s definitely one of our best beam workers. Solid as a rock. All-American on floor. She’s got such a focus.”

For LSU to get back where it was last season, winning the SEC championship meet and contending for the national title, the Tigers need Desiderio and the rest of the juniors — Reagan Campbell, Sarah Edwards, Olivia Gunter, Bridget Dean and Sami Durante — to start throwing bigger scores. The six combined this season only have five marks of 9.90 or better. That includes a 9.95 on vault and a 9.90 on floor from Sarah Edwards, who has been out since a Jan. 24 ankle injury at Florida and is still a ways from competing again.

“The junior class is giving us as much as they can give us at this point in time,” Breaux said. “Reagan Campbell is giving us a lot. For her to anchor on balance beam and do what she’s doing, we’ve made some changes in her floor routine and she hit a really nice routine this week. We’re looking to get her more prepared closer to the postseason.

“We feel like this team has the opportunity to do the same thing last year’s team did, which is to peak at the right time.”

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Being bigger contributors is something Desiderio said the juniors talk about amongst themselves.

“We talk about it all the time,” she said. “The class that grad last year there’s some big shoes to fill. We have to step up as leaders vocally, inside and outside of gymnastics.”

Neither meet this weekend will be televised. The GymQuarters is available on a pay streaming basis on www.FloSports.tv, while the Kentucky meet will be streaming on SECNetwork+ via WatchESPN.com and the ESPN app.

SEC standings

Team SEC Pct. Overall Pct. Average

Florida 4-0 1.000 6-0 1.000 197.650

Kentucky 3-1 .750 6-2 .750 196.479

Alabama 2-1 .667 3-3-1 .500 196.865

LSU 2-2 .500 5-2 .714 196.671

Arkansas 2-2 .500 2-4 .333 196.233

Auburn 2-3 .400 3-5 .375 196.096

Georgia 1-2 .333 5-5 .500 196.508

Missouri 0-5 .000 1-6 .143 195.879

Friday’s results

Kentucky 197.275, Auburn 196.250

Arkansas 196.950, Georgia 196.750

Alabama 197.550, Missouri 196.850

Florida 197.875, Denver 197.250, Iowa State 196.800

Saturday’s results

LSU 196.800, Oregon State 196.700, Arizona State 195.600@

Friday’s schedule

LSU, Missouri, Iowa State, Lindenwood, 6 p.m.#

Arkansas at Alabama, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)

Ball State, Eastern Michigan at Georgia, 6 p.m.

Florida at Auburn, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Sunday’s schedule

Kentucky at LSU, 2:15 p.m. (SEC+)

@-At Corvallis, Oregon

#-GymQuarters Invitational, St. Charles, Missouri

All times Central