No. 3 Red Rocks Take Down No. 6 LSU in Season Opener


Xiangyao Tang

No. 3 Utah Red Rocks light the U after defeating the No. 6 LSU Tigers at Jon M. Huntsman Center on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Editor


No. 3 Utah hasn’t hosted No. 6 LSU in the Huntsman Center since 2007, and the Utes are 9-0 against the Tigers at home. Utah came into the stadium prepared to make that a double-digit streak. LSU is Utah’s first ranked opponent before they face No. 22 BYU in the Best of Utah (WCGA Preseason Poll).

Jillian Hoffman got the Utes started on vault, scoring a nice 9.825, with Abby Brenner quickly following with a 9.875 of her own. Utah’s Grace McCallum unfortunately failed to stick the landing on her vault, scoring only a 9.3.

Utah finished with 49.350 on the vault, while LSU followed closely behind with 49.000 on the bars. But the Utes struggled on the bars, scoring 49.225 compared to LSU’s 49.300 on the vault. But McCallum got her groove back on the bars, scoring a team high 9.925.

Despite slipping a little on bars, Utah still held a 98.575 to 98.300 lead with two of the four events finished. Utah settled into the beam, starting strong with a 9.825 from Amelie Morgan. She was followed by a 9.875 from Cristal Isa, which was then followed by another 9.875 from McCallum.

LSU’s KJ Johnson committed a line violation on floor, scoring only a 9.500 while Utah never scored below 9.825 during their time on the beam. Utah’s strong performance on the beam scored them 49.475.

Heading into the final event, the Red Rocks held a 148.050 to 147.675 lead. With only floor to go, Abby Paulson led the way for Utah with Jaedyn Rucker finishing the night off for the Red Rocks.

Beside a couple of falls, the Red Rocks were nearly perfect throughout the night. “The goal each and every day is to go out there and do your best gymnastics,” Paulson said to Utah Athletics.

Grace McCallum was the only all-around Red Rock of the night and scored a 38.950 overall. Maile O’Keefe was MVP as the Red Rocks finished in a 197.275 to 196.775 win over LSU.

Utah’s Jillian Hoffman made her return for Utah after suffering a torn achilles. She scored a 9.825 on the vault. Head coach Tom Farden said, “She’s the epitome of somebody who has this internal drive … She’s one of the fastest, quickest, most explosive athletes I’ve coached in my career.”

With this win, Utah looks forwards to the Rio Tinto Best of Utah competition where they will face Utah State, SUU and BYU. BYU is the only other ranked opponent that will compete in the Best of Utah, falling in at No. 22.

It’s a great start to the season for the Red Rocks, and certainly a step in the right direction when the postseason comes around. The Red Rocks will return to the Huntsman to face No. 21 Washington on Jan. 28.


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