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Opening the season at home in front of 15,000 fans was the easy part for Utah's gymnastics team. Now it's time to see how the Utes can handle the challenge of winning on the road, which is a whole other matter.
The Utes, who compete at Cal on Friday, didn't do so well away from home last year. They were blasted by UCLA 197.425-195.3 in the season opener, were nearly upset at Arizona, then tied Washington and lost at Georgia.
If the Utes are to improve this year, they will definitely have to produce better efforts on the road.
Junior Georgia Dabritz said she and her teammates are up for the challenge, in part because their overall confidence is high even after they've lost key contributor Kassandra Lopez for the season due to a torn Achilles tendon.
"Starting off at home helps our confidence," she said. "We feel like we are a different team than we were last year, stronger and more confident in ourselves than last year so hopefully we can do well."
Even though the Utes won the season opener convincingly, there was a point in which Boise State was just a tenth of a point behind the Utes after Utah had two falls on the uneven bars.
After the meet, Utah's gymnasts expressed confidence that they knew they could win the meet with their floor performance.
However, coach Greg Marsden is using the moment as a reminder that the difference between winning meets and losing has become ever so slim in the age of parity in collegiate gymnastics.
Cal is coming off a 195.2-193.225 loss at Denver after suffering several falls on the floor, but Marsden believes the program is improving under coach Justin Howell, who is in his second year with the program.
He was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year after the Bears qualified for the NCAA Regional Championships last year for the first time since 2007.
"They won't blow you away with difficulty, but they are definitely a team on the rise, Marsden said. "They're getting the good recruits and our close meet with Boise shows what one fall can do. We have to go to Cal and make sure we are on top of our game."
The Utes certainly don't want to be known as the team that gives the Bears their signature Pac-12 win. Instead, they hope that they are not necessarily a team on the rise, but one on the rebound after their ninth-place performance at NCAAs last year.
Performing better on the road would be a big step in that direction, junior Becky Tutka said.
"Last year we were young and we didn't have Corrie [Lothrop] and we felt like we improvised a lot on the road," she said. "We didn't feel like we knew what we were doing a lot of time. This year we are a lot more prepared and it should be a fun challenge to see what it is like outside of the Huntsman Center."
The first step will be cleaning up their uneven bars work, where they had two falls in the opener, Marsden said.
"We have to get a lot cleaner in the routines," he said. "We're not having the problems in practice, so it comes down to execution in the meets."
No. 4 Utah at Cal
P Friday 8 p.m.
TV • None
Records • Utah (3-0, 0-0); Cal (3-2, 0-1)
Series • Utah leads 11-0
Last meeting • Utah won, 197.075-195.075 at Pac-12 Championships.
About the Utes • Georgia Dabritz was named the Pac-12 Specialist of the Week for her showing in the opening meet when she scored 9.9 on vault and 9.95 on the uneven bars…Utah has not faced the Bears in a dual meet since 1983…Utah's last visit to Haas Pavilion was at the 2007 NCAA Regionals, which the Utes won.
About the Bears • Losses are to No. 9 Stanford and No. 18 Denver. …Senior Alicia Asturias won the all-around with a 39.125 last week. … Are 0-2 against the Utes at home. … Coached by Justin Howell, who is in his second year.