Technically, Utah's second-ranked gymnastics team will introduce two new gymnasts tonight when it hosts No. 4 UCLA in freshmen Cortni Beers and Stephanie McAllister.
However, the Utes might as well reintroduce junior Jamie Deetscreek, too. By all accounts few will recognize the former specialist who is predicted to contend for a spot in the all-around this season.
"I can't wait for people to see her," teammate Nina Kim said. "She is so strong mentally and physically."
There is no better time than the present for Deetscreek to emerge as a consistent contributor to the team. The Utes no longer have the big scores from Ashley Postell and are without sophomore Kyndal Robarts because of a shoulder injury. In addition, Daria Bijak and Annie DiLuzio aren't quite 100 percent.
Even if everyone were healthy, coach Greg Marsden believes Deetscreek still would be one of the top gymnasts in 2009 for his team based on her preseason workouts.
"She has done a remarkable job and stepped it up for us," he said. "There is a good chance she'll be on three events for us this season and maybe in the all-around of she gets a consistent floor routine."
What is the difference in a gymnast who competed in just two meets as a freshman then on two events as a sophomore?
Deetscreek said she worked hard in the summer, just as she did after her freshman year but feels more confident about her gymnastics than she did in the past. She was a regular in the bars and beam lineup in 2008 but most importantly hit both routines at the NCAA Championships. Those routines were the bit of success she needed to know she could excel and also want more chances.
"Last year showed me what I could do," she said. "I was in the lineup more and had to hit that night. This year, it's expected. I know if he puts me in there, I have to get the job done."
Deetscreek admits the hardest part of gymnastics for her is dealing with pressure situations. Being singled out as a major player on the nation's second-ranked team will bring her more attention than she is accustomed to having, but she said she is ready for it.
It helps, she said, that everybody is feeling some pressure to make up for scores they expected Postell to deliver in the past.
"Everybody has to pull their own weight and do their part," she said. "I'm not going to be like the star or anything, but I don't think anybody is going to be. There isn't anybody who is really above the rest and it's going to be who hits every day. That will make us good, I think."
Apparently it has already made her better.
"We all know we have to shift our places and fill in the gaps," teammate Kristina Baskett said of how the Utes can replace Postell. "I include Jamie at the top of that list. She has done so good and has been so consistent, I think she is at her peak."
A week ago the Cougars competed at the Cancun Classic, where they scored a 189.125, the lowest score out of the eight teams that competed. Oregon State had the third-highest with a 194.575.
Freshman Natalie Eyre had BYU's highest score of the night with a 9.825 on the balance beam.
"Our team is still learning and making mistakes, but we will get better," BYU coach Brad Cattermole said. "We're taking some chances with the lineup to see what the girls can do. If we can hit five of six sets on every event, that will be a great start."
Elsewhere, Utah State opens its season Saturday at Kentucky and SUU competes at Cal State Fullerton tonight.
Tonight, 7 p.m., Huntsman Center
About Utah » The Utes lead the series 41-13 and have won the last eight in a row. Sophomore Kyndal Robarts is out indefinitely with a torn shoulder muscle. Kristina Baskett and Daria Bijak are returning All-Americans. Baskett, an aspiring photographer, was one of 12 athletes selected to have their photos displayed at the NCAA Convention from Jan. 13-17. Coach Greg Marsden is 900-155-5 heading into his 34th season.
About UCLA » Senior Kristina Comforte, a five-time All-American, announced she was retiring earlier this week because of a shoulder injury. The top returner is Anna Li, a five-time All-American. Top newcomer is Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, a 2008 Canadian Olympian and 2006 world bronze medalist on the beam.
Of note » Made beam and bar lineup in every meet except season opener. Career high of 9.875 on beam, 9.825 on bars, 9.65 on vault. Has hit 24 of27 routines. MWC scholar athlete earned a 4.0 in spring semester.