LINCOLN, Neb. - Out of all the national contenders on the University of Utah's gymnastics team's schedule - UCLA, Michigan, Georgia - it was a visit to the dreary flatlands of Nebraska for a Sunday meet in front of a small crowd, that worried Utah coach Greg Marsden the most.
Give him a 10.0 for being dead on.
Utah's top-ranked gymnastics team fell to No. 6 Nebraska, 196.65-196.60. The loss was Utah's first in regular-season competition in 12 meets, dating to a 196.725-196.35 loss at Michigan on Feb. 14, 2004.
"It doesn't feel good, not even to lose by .05," Utah senior Annabeth Eberle said. "It happens, we're not shocked because of the high scores they've been getting, but we didn't feel like it was one of our best meets either."
Nebraska was ready to score an upset, having earned above 196.675 in its last four meets, scores Utah has matched or bettered just twice.
Utah, though, was far from near-perfect, having falls on the bars, floor and balance beam. Utah didn't have to count any falls, but the mistakes, plus some low landings and steps on dismounts, gave the Cornhuskers the openings they needed to win. "We started flat and gave away a few too many tenths," Marsden said. "They were just better than we were tonight."
Even with all the miscues, the meet came down to the last routine after Utah's Ashley Postell earned a season-high 9.95 on the balance beam to end Utah's competition, giving Utah a slight lead, its only lead of the night.
"I knew it was so close, I couldn't do anything but go out and just hit," Postell said.
Nebraska's Richelle Simpson needed a 9.875 to win the meet for the Cornhuskers. She did even better, scoring a 9.9.
"I didn't know it was up to me," Simpson said. "It wouldn't have mattered anyway, I always go out and try to do my best."
Utah's problems started even before the meet, when several gymnasts peeled off the uneven bars during open warmups. Bars specialist Dominique D'Oliveira had three crashes and was pulled from the lineup because Marsden thought she was simply having a bad night.
However, after several of Nebraska's gymnasts suffered the same fate, the teams discovered the chalk at the station was from the men's gym, and contained a sugar mix that is slicker than what the women use.
Utah didn't blame the loss on the chalk, but did score just a 49.1, its third lowest mark on the event this year. Kristen Riffanacht, who replaced D'Oliveira, scored 9.275.
"I don't know how much it affected us," Eberle said. "We were talking about it a lot, and we finally just said we had to stop talking about it, it's over, and move on, but it definitely wasn't normal."
Down .125 after the first rotation, Utah pulled to within .05 after the second, when it scored a 49.075 on the vault while Nebraska earned a 49.0 on the bars.
Utah, however, couldn't make up for the rest of the margin thanks to minor deductions.
"It's a little weird to lose," Postell said. "We just have to do better sticking our landings and stuff."
For Marsden, it has a little to do with attitude as well.
"I talked to them afterward and told them they have to go out and take charge of the meet and win it," he said. "You have to act like you expect to win, and not compete just not to lose."
Nebraska 196.650, Utah 196.600
Vault - 1. (Tie) Ashley Postell, Utah, and Emily Parsons, Nebraska, 9.925; 3. Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 9.900; 4.Stephanie Carter, Nebraska, 9.875; 5. Rachel Tidd, Utah, 9.825; 6. Desire Sniatynski, Nebraska, 9.800; 7. (Tie) Jessica Duke, Utah, and Brittney Wiliams and Michele Zabawa, Nebraska, 9.750; 10. Gabriella Onodi, Utah, 9.675.
Uneven Parallel Bars - 1. (Tie) Michele Zabawa, Nebraska, and Nicolle Ford, Utah, 9.850; 3. (Tie)Rachel Tidd and Katie Kivisto, Utah, 9.825; 5. (Tie) Richelle Simpson and Kristi Esposito, Nebraska, 9.800; 7. (Tie) Desire Sniatynski, Nebraska, and Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 9.775; 9. Emily Parsons, Nebraska, 9.725; 10. Kristen Riffanacht, Utah, 9.275.
Balance Beam - 1. Ashley Postell, Utah, 9.950; 2. (Tie) Richell Simpson, Emily Parsons and Jamie Saas, Nebraska, 9.900; 6. (Tie) Kristen Riffanacht and Nicolle Ford, Utah, 9.850; 8. Rachel Tidd, Utah, 9.825; 9. Michele Zabawa, Nebraska, 9.800; 10. Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 9.775; 11. Stephanie Carter, Nebraska, 9.675; 12. Gabreilla Onodi, Utah, 9.300.
Floor - 1. Emily Parsons, Nebraska, 9.925; 2. (Tie) Richelle Simpson, Nebraska, and Ashley Postell, Utah, 9.900; 4. Rachel Tidd, Utah, 9.875; 5. (Tie) Stephanie Carter, Nebraska, and Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 9.850; 7. (Tie) Nicolle Ford, Utah, and Kristi Esposito, Nebraska, 9.800. 10. Jamie Saas, Nebraska, 9.775; 11. Gabreilla Onodi, Utah, 9.750; 12. Katie Kivisto, Utah, 9.175.
All-Around - 1. Ashley Postell, Utah, 39.600; 2. (Tie) Emily Parsons and Richelle Timpson, Nebraska, 39.475; 4. Rachel Tidd, Utah, 39.350; 5. Annabeth Eberle, Utah, 39.300; 6. Nicolle Ford, Utah, 39.050.
IN SHORT - Utah loses its first dual meet since falling to Michigan on Feb. 14, 2004.
KEY STAT - As the last gymnast performing, Nebraska's Richelle Simpson scored a 9.9 on the floor to give Nebraska the win.
KEY MOMENT - Utah scored a 49.075 on the vault, only its fourth-best performance on the event this year.