Utes' balance beats Bruins

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There were brilliant moments, unsure routines, surprises and shaky landings for Utah's second-ranked gymnastics team Friday. In other words, it was about what the Utes expected from their 2009 season opener as they defeated No. 4 UCLA 196.175-196.075 in front of 12,951 fans at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes beat the Bruins even with their final two competitors, Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim, falling on the floor.

The mistakes by the usually dependable gymnasts allowed teammate Jamie Deetscreek to snatch the all-around title in her first meet as an all-around competitor with a 39.1.

Another gymnast, Beth Rizzo, badly sprained her ankle as she competed an exhibition floor routine.

Utah coach Greg Marsden expects she'll be out of the lineup for a significant amount of time.

The good news is the Utes still won even without big floor scores from seniors Baskett and Kim. Seeing two veterans make mistakes worried Marsden less than if the mistakes had been from others because he knows what they normally contribute to the team.

"I kind of sweated through the first four and thought we were home free and was surprised," he said. "But at this point I chalk it up to they both just made some mental mistakes in the way they approached things and we can work on that. I didn't get the feeling either one of them wasn't physically ready or capable of doing it."

Although both Utah and UCLA are predicted to be contenders for the national title, both teams started the season with a lot of unknowns due to youth and injuries.

Utah is without sophomore Kyndal Robarts, who is sidelined with a torn shoulder muscle.

The Bruins don't have much depth or experience either following the retirement of standout Kristina Comforte because of a shoulder injury.

In addition, several other gymnasts were limited as they recovered from injuries.

Of the Bruins' 24 routines Friday, 22 were performed by freshmen and sophomores.

The youth showed as the Bruins suffered a fall on every event.

Even so, competing so closely with the Utes on their home floor gave UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field hope even if the Bruins lost.

"We did about 75 percent of the gymnastics this team can do, not counting the girls we have coming in the coming weeks, so the future looks bright," she said.

The Utes gave a similar assessment of their future. Freshmen Cortni Beers and Stephanie McAllister both had bright moments, with McAllister scoring a 9.85 on the floor and 9.725 on the vault.

Beers fell on her first collegiate routine, the uneven bars, and scored a 9.175, but recovered to deliver a 9.7 as the leadoff gymnast on beam.

Veterans such as Daria Bijak (9.825, beam and bars), Annie DiLuzio (9.875) and Gael Mackie (9.9 bars) also had strong showings.

Kim and Baskett, meanwhile, were leading the all-around until their falls on the floor.

Those are the kinds of performances Marsden is looking for as the Utes learn what gymnastics is like without having Ashley Postell to count on to deliver the big scores.

"It's going to take some time for people to get comfortable and learn their roles," he said. "It's going to take some experimenting on our part as coaches, too, to learn where we put people in lineups and that kind of thing."



IN BRIEF » The Utes win their sixth straight season opener and ninth straight against the Bruins.

KEY MOMENT » Nina Kim (9.95), Gael Mackie (9.8) and Jamie Deetscreek (9.875) all have career highs on the vault to give Utah a comfortable lead after the first rotation.

KEY STAT » Jamie Deetscreek wins the all-around with a 39.1.

Utah's highest season-opening scores

2005 » 197.675

2004 » 197.35

1993 » 196.95

2003 » 196.75

2001 » 196.375

2007 » 196.325

2008 » 196.3

2002 » 196.2

2009 » 196.175

1999 » 196.05

Individual winners

All-Around » Jamie Deetscreek (Utah) 39.1

Vault » Nina Kim (Utah) 9.95

Uneven Bars » Kristina Baskett (Utah) 9.925

Balance Beam » Aisha Gerber (UCLA) 9.9

Floor » Annie DiLuzio (Utah) 9.875